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Vision After the Sermon - A Collective Hallucination With Mystery

Gauguin created this work at the Pont-Aven in Brittany.

Gauguin's visit to the Pont-Aven was intended to be an outdoor landscape sketch, but in the process, he uncovered his talent for interpreting religious themes in a highly personal way. Both the use of line and shape and the bold handling of paint reveal his character for non-naturalistic landscape expression.

Vision after the Sermon

Paul Gauguin
Oil on canvas
72.2 x 91 cm 
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

In the composition, the diagonal tree trunk separates the scene into two parts, with the curved lines of the trunk aligning with the lines of the onlooker's head, while the branches and leaves, which should be painted from the upper right, surround Jacob and the angel in a separate structure. Gauguin cleverly expressed a particular distorted perspective by narrowing the crowd at the left edge. In terms of technique, the artist applied large areas of flat color to the painting, with the red ground, brown tree trunks, white hats, and black clothing, all of which are visually striking and stand out in an unshaded manner.

The most striking of them is the off-beat red ground that sets off the intensity of the struggle between the two wrestling men. Gauguin's portrayal of the figures is not in the traditional gradation of tones but rather in distinct contour lines, exaggerated shapes, and distorted forms, suggesting that his painting style was moving from naturalism to abstraction, even symbolism.

Plum Park in Kameido

Utagawa Hiroshige
Woodblock print
36.4 x 24.4 cm
Shimane Art Museum, Matsue

Many of Gauguin's works were influenced by Japanese painters and Japanese prints, especially Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige. Vision after the Sermon also draws some of its inspiration from Japanese prints, such as Hiroshige's Plum Park in Kameido. The tree trunk is placed diagonally, and the red sky above corresponds to the tree trunk and red ground from the upper left corner toward the center of the picture in Vision after the Sermon. In addition, Van Gogh also once created a painting named Flowering Plum Tree that paid almost complete homage to Plum Park in Kameido, and the two are so similar that Van Gogh's work could be considered a copy of Hiroshige's work.

Sumo Wrestlers

Katsushika Hokusai
Oil on canvas
50.6 x 39.7 cm
Private collection

In addition to borrowing from Plum Park in Kameido, there are also vague traces of Katsushika Hokusai's Sumo Wrestlers in Vision after the Sermon, and some critics even suggest that the scene of Jacob wrestling with an angel was inspired by this work.

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