Formal Analysis of Paul Gauguin’s The Siesta Painting

FormalAnalysis of Paul Gauguin’s The Siesta Painting

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FormalAnalysis of Paul Gauguin’s The Siesta Painting

Thepainting is called The Siesta and was done by PaulGauguin.The painting shows women resting and sited on a roofed-over verandah.The piece of art was painted in 1892-1894. The material that theartist employed on the painting is oil on canvas. The painting’sdimensions are 35 x 45 ¾ in 88.9 x 116.2 centimeters1.The credit line of the siesta painting goes to Leonore Anneberg andWalter H collection, Leonore Anneberg and Gift of Walter H andfinally 1993 Anneberg and bequest of Walter H 2002. The Siestapainting is located and viewed Metropolitan Museum of Art in New YorkCity.

Gauguinhas used horizontal lines on the Tahitian women to illustrate theirunaffected grace. Closer examination reveals that the horizontallines are mostly predominant in this painting. Hence it is possiblethat the Siesta painting employs these lines to suggest and bringabout a feeling of rest as depicted by the unselfconscious Tahitianwomen. This is mostly because the women and objects are depictedembracing horizontal direction as mostly illustrated by the womanlying on her stomach. This element of painting gives a sense of spaceand rest. The lines outline sections of the painting’s landscapewhich move away into space. They have been employed in the siestapainting to imply or bring into perspective a continuation oflandscape that cannot be seen in the picture but is possibly there.This is mostly distinct when one tries to imagine the scale of leftor right of the painting.

Moreover the Gauguin has employed the use of curves especially to thefirst image of the Tahitian woman. The rest of the women also havecurved lines that are dominant in this whole painting. The use ofcurves can be used to bring about energy as seen in the woman who isironing the clothes. More so in the first woman the curves are softto illustrate the shape of a full woman. To the eye these curvesconvey a sensual and pleasing quality that eventually softens thewhole composition of the entire Siesta painting to the eye of theaudience. The curves employed in this painting leads the eye togently wonder softly to the entire compositions of the painting in apleasing sort of way. Hence it is possible to deduct that Gauguin hasachieved the objective that he desired by employing the curves in theSiesta painting

Inaddition Gauguin has also employed the use of space. This is doneappropriately as depicted in the Siesta painting. The area that isusually occupied the Tahitian women is known as positive space whilethe area around them is known as negative space. In this regard, theTahitian women seem to have occupied the positive space in full asopposed to the negative space. Real space is typically threedimensional as illustrated in the Siesta painting. It is importantto become aware of the relationship between the negative and positivespace. The painting depicts the primary objects who in this case arethe Tahitian women who have occupied most of the space in thepainting as opposed to the negative space. Hence this brings afeeling of unity and togetherness. There is absolutely noillustration of isolation or sadness. The women seem to be happy andunselfconscious.

Gauguinhas also used many colors to represent different moods or emotions.There is a combination of different colors as illustrated by theTahitian women who are clothed in different colors. In this regard itis important to become aware of the intensity of the colors as theytypically reflect the strength of the objects as employed by Gauguin.Bright colors are seen in the painting and are most predominant inthe woman who is lying and the outside space from where the women aregetting the shade. The bright typically represent associated withheightened emotions and positive energy. These colors that illustratethese emotions are usually undiluted.

Thereforeit is possible to deduct from these women that although they seemresting, they may be having heightened emotions and they are probablyhappy. They seem resting from the sunny day as illustrated by theartist in its intensity. In addition the artist has employed the useof some dark colors which have been mixed with bright colors to bringabout a feeling of seriousness. Hence the Siesta painting hasemployed the use of intensity in the colors to illustrate both theseriousness of the seriousness of the subjects as well as theirheightened emotions.

Another key element that was employed in the Siesta painting was theuse of analogue colors that Gauguin preferred using in close nearnesswhose objective was to achieve a subdued effect. He also usednon-representational colors that ensured his breakthrough. Siesta isa painting that is created by a canvas and has an independentvitality and existence all on its own. The gap achieved between himand surface reality displeased some of his contemporary artists likePissarro, who even went to an extent of ending their relationship. The human figures like the women portrayed in the siesta painting area constant reminder of Gauguin’s love affair with prints fromJapanese origins.

Textureis an important element of any painting that is aimed at bringingabout the surface quality of the image created. Siesta painting is atwo dimensional painting that gives a visual sense of the feeling ofthe objects portrayed. To illustrate this Gauguin has incorporatedthe use of shading, color and line to project this element. TheTahitian women seem to have a soft touch feeling where Gauguin hasused soft colors to illustrate their bodies and the clothes they arewearing. In addition the women seem to be occupying the floor withtheir bare feet to depict the feeling that the floor is soft. Gauguinhas carefully illustrated this softness by carefully using lines andsoft shades.

Inaddition the siesta painting illustrates their gravitational to thecompositional austerity and the naivety of the figures of women. Thepurpose of using this particular element was meant to influence hisprimitive manifestations. The other reason that pushed him to employthese colors was also the fact that Gauguin was very much inspired byfolk art. The women figures in the Siesta painting also illustratetheir bare emotional purity in a straightforward way that emphasizedupright lines and major forms to obviously define contour and shape2.The siesta painting further has elaborate formal coring anddecorations that Gauguin has meticulously used in patterns ofconcepts attempting to harmonize nature and man.

Gauguin’sprogress to oil material is evident in the siesta painting an elementthat advanced the small visible sketches to ambiguously highlyfurnished and large sheets. Siesta painting was developed much like asynthetic painting and acted much as a symbolic figure than a meremirror-like reflection of the authenticity and a documentary. Thiswas achieved by Gauguin after mastering impressionist methods ofportraying the optical knowledge of nature. Gauguin had studied avariety of landscapes in the Caribbean and rural Brittany. He hadalso immersed himself in the then French ideas of subject of colortheory and printing. Siesta Painting was much various unstableprocesses from a scientific study of visual perception.

Moreoverthe transfers also enabled Gauguin to create texture and depth thatwere achieved as a result of printing multiple layers of the samelarge sheet. This could be developed by starting with black ink andgraphite pencil for delineation. Then Gauguin moved to blue crayonsthat reinforced shading and added line3.After which he washed the image with brown ink or oiled-down olive tocomplete the image. Gauguin had high regard for oil transfers.

TheSiesta painting that was transformed to the quality of the drawnline. In addition, this element employed by Gauguin used allchemicals in nature. Hence, they had an element of probability bywhich texture and unexpected marks that regularly arose (Tinterow,2007). The texture and the features of the final result fascinatedthe artist as well as the audience. A print that was a metamorphosisof a drawing relinquished legibility that was intended to achieveabstraction as well as mystery.

TheSiesta painting has carefully calculated and considered all elementsin advance by Gauguin. The subject of the women sitting idly wastaken from the everyday life and from nature. The painting was apretext that assisted Gauguin by the earnings of descriptions andarrangements of colors and lines to achieve harmony and symphonies.These have no opposite number in all realism. The objects portrayedin the siesta painting do not give a direct impression to anyavailable idea, the characteristic that Gauguin hoped to achieve.Their purpose and unity is to stimulate the imagination of theaudience. The siesta painting has in no doubt been able to achieve amysterious affinity. This mysterious affinity exists between certainlines, colors and in the mind of the audience.


Tinterow,Gary. Masterpiecesof European Painting: 1800-1920, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.2007, New Haven: Yale University Press

1 Tinterow, Gary. Masterpieces of European Painting: 1800-1920, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2007, New Haven: Yale University Press

2 Tinterow, Gary. Masterpieces of European Painting: 1800-1920, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2007, New Haven: Yale University Press

3 Tinterow, Gary. Masterpieces of European Painting: 1800-1920, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2007, New Haven: Yale University Press