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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:39

Paul Gauguin, Vision after the Sermon, or Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

Video transcript

[Music] we're looking at Paul Gauguin's vision after the sermon Jacob wrestling with an angel from 1888 it's wildly vividly colored Gauguin is doing it I think one of the most interesting things here by allowing Conor to function in a purely abstract way the idea freeing color from the natural world and using color expressively and separating the painting from having to be a mirror of reality which it had been since the Renaissance not only is the red vivid and powerful there's this this wrestling match going on between Jacob with the yellow wings who seems to be getting poor Jacob in a kind of headlock and so now do you have the sense of the red equated in some way with violence but the red is powerful and it's forcing itself forward the flattening of space which of course is also getting from Japanese prints and in fact that Japanese print is referred to in a very explicit way by that wonderful tree trunk which diagonally divides the kid I remember it again talking about not wanting the painting to look real to bring it back to a sense of the visionary and a spiritual and so he repressed the use of shadows for example and lots of other techniques that were used since the Renaissance to create a convincing illusion of reality in fact in a letter to Van Gogh his friend he would write that his paintings at this time were abstract we don't look at a painting like this and think of it as abstract but by that I think he meant the refusal of the modulation of light and shadow Gauguin is in Brittany which is in the northwest of France over by the coast area that's rugged and difficult to weather and there was an artist colony there but Gauguin went there very much to separate himself from the life of the city and modern Parisian culture and to find something that was more true more uncivilized closer to some kind of original human nature is coming out of the Enlightenment and this is Russo's philosophy of natural man and this is go again completely inventing because we're seeing these women who are in their traditional headdresses as if this was the 17th or 18th century and it would be almost like us going to Wyoming and on a day that they have rodeo everybody's got that cowboy hat on and thinking that that's the way people dress all the time with chaps as if it was a hundred years earlier it's completely invented but the point he's making is a very interesting one ultimately I think he's got the peasants in the foreground their eyes are closed they seem to he's turned inward but what's interesting about this painting is that it's not a religious painting it's not a biblical subject it's not just Jacob wrestling with the angel it is a painting about people having a religious experience and that religious experiences then separated from their world by that tree which separates the spiritual realm from the physical realm it's really a spectator religious painting a painting where we watch other people be religious and I think that gogans identified a modern dilemma which is that it's very hard to have the same relationship with the spiritual if that human beings had before the modern industrial era and I think he feels as nostalgia and longing for what he imagines as a more direct spiritual experience so this is a strategy of actually a very sophisticated strategy for bringing that kind of religious imagery that was embedded in the medieval and the Renaissance even in the Baroque now into the modern world you