Still Life with Head-Shaped Vase and Japanese Woodcut is an 1889 painting in the Post-Impressionist style by the leading French artist Paul Gauguin. This work is located in the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Iran.
Analysis of Still Life with Head-Shaped Vase and Japanese Woodcut
In an interior that catches the eye for its combination of broad surfaces in pink and gold color, Gaugin portrays, as the title tells us, a likely wooden low vase shaped with the profile of a human face on one side, a larger amorphous vase holding a multifarious ensemble of plants, and a picture on the wall behind them showing most likely a woman’s face in sketch form.
The picture is identified as a Japanese woodcut of the ukiyo-e genre, Gaugin being a prominent enthusiast of Japanese artifacts and particularly woodcuts. The artwork we espy in this picture contains a figure whose face and hair have been conspicuously left colorless, while her clothes and environment bear a pigment that is as vivid as the rest of this painting.
Gaugin has not adopted any distorting effects of perspective or chromatic interference, even though several leaves and flowers from the vases rise up to interpose between us and the picture on the wall. The creation of this painting coincides with Gaugin’s intense experimentation with the hybrid art form of drawings and oils.
Influence of Japanese art on Gauguin
One of the key influences on his work was Japanese art, which he discovered in the late 19th century. Gauguin was fascinated by the simplicity, clarity, and stylization of Japanese art, which he saw as a refreshing contrast to the ornate and academic art of Europe. He was particularly interested in the use of flat shapes, decorative patterns, and vivid colors, which he incorporated into his own work.
One of the ways that Japanese art influenced Gauguin was through the use of woodblock prints. He collected many examples of Japanese prints and was particularly drawn to the work of artists such as Hiroshige and Hokusai. He was inspired by the way that these artists used flat colors and strong outlines to create bold and graphic images.
Another way that Japanese art influenced Gauguin was through the use of decorative patterns. He was interested in the way that Japanese artists used repeated motifs and abstract designs to create a sense of rhythm and movement in their work. He incorporated these decorative elements into his own paintings, using them to create a sense of harmony and balance.
Finally, Japanese art influenced Gauguin through its subject matter. He was interested in the way that Japanese artists depicted scenes from everyday life, such as landscapes, still lifes, and portraits. He used this approach in his own work, painting scenes from his travels in Tahiti and other exotic locations, often featuring local people and their customs.
The painting is, interestingly, to be seen at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art following a purchase in 1976 for over $7 million in today’s money.