Abstract Canvas Prints No 53 : Gauguin
The artist has chosen a single, startling colour to describe the field in which the (gold) winged angel and Jacob struggle.
In an attempt to reflect the religious reverie being experienced by the women he has painted the grass a livid orangey-red; a colour that dominates the composition like a screaming child in a library.
Now Gauguin was in Brittany, northern France, when he painted Vision After the Sermon, a place where there are no bright orangey-red fields.
His colour selection was made purely for symbolic and decorative purposes; Gauguin had elected to forfeit authenticity for theatrical allegory and design.
True, the subject of the painting is rooted in reality.
It was not unusual for Bretons to gather round and enjoy a wrestling match between two young men.
But the scene is exaggerated with the introduction of a biblical story, the layering of non-naturalistic colour, and an image rife with mythical allusion.
Take, for example, the tree branch that runs diagonally across the picture, dividing it in two.
It is highly unlikely that there was such a branch there in the first place, and even if there was, that it was in such a precise position.
This is because it serves as a narrative device employed by Gauguin to separate the real world from fantasy.
To the left of the tree is reality – a gathering of virtuous women – while to the right is the figment of their imagination: Jacob wrestling an angel.
A disproportionately small cow can be seen on the left-hand ‘realist’ side, but Gauguin has the animal standing on the fictional crimson grass, a combination that symbolizes the rustic ways of Breton life and the superstitious nature of those that live it.
As for Jacob, well, he arguably represents Gauguin the artist, the angel his inner demons that are preventing him from fulfilling his own personal vision.