Paris, France, 1848-Atuona, Islas Marquesas, 1903
Oil on canvas, 74 x 92 cm
Contributed by the Provincial Council of Bizkaia in 1920
Washerwomen in Arles was painted in that French town, where Gauguin settled late in 1888 summoned by Vincent van Gogh, who hoped to found a community of artists there. The work captures the painter’s concern in emphasising expressiveness over and above formalism, which entailed his final break with Impressionism. This principle, for which Gauguin coined the term Syntheticism, was characterised by non-mimetic representations of nature, the rejection of the third dimension taken from Japanese prints and the separation of colour in broad contrasted planes by means of dark lines. Exceptional features of the work are the abstract background, the impression of movement, the photographic framing that silhouettes certain elements, the flat shapes with dark contours and the areas of pure colour. The distortion and rigidity of the figures betray the influence of the rough stone statuary in Breton churches. In the last few decades of the nineteenth century Gauguin, who began to paint late in life, led the transformation of Impressionist principles into more subjective forms of expression. His artistic language was determined by his trips to Pont-Aven and Arles, not to mention the South Seas. The brightness of the colours and the light in Polynesia and the close ties between the indigenous society and nature caused a great impression on the painter; consequently, the exotic locations and primitive beliefs of Brittany and Tahiti, alongside the pictorial expressiveness of his friend Van Gogh became the references that helped materialise his ideas, which were also rendered in prints, ceramics and, in his last years on the island of Hiva-Oa, in sculpture. [J.N.G.]
Independently of its permanent collection, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum regularly organises temporary exhibition programmes.
Please consult the exhibition calendar for more information about the museum's latest proposals.
Basque sculptor Néstor Basterretxea (Bermeo, Biscay, 1924) recently donated one of the most celebrated series of Basque sculptures dating from the second half of the XX century to the Museum: the Basque Cosmogony Series. The Series was first exhibited by the Museum in 1973.
The current exhibition comprises 18 sculptures, 17 of which are made of oak and 1 of bronze, which the artist created between 1972 and 1975. The finely crafted works executed in contemporary language are based on mythological characters, forces of nature and traditional objects from Basque culture taken from José Miguel de Barandiarán’s Diccionario de Mitología Vasca (Dictionary of Basque Mythology, 1972). Visitors will also have the opportunity of admiring 5 works from the Máscaras de la Madrina Luna Series created in 1977 as well as several preparatory drawings.
It is also on exhibition two movies directed by Néstor Basterretxea and Fernando Larruquert, entitled Pelotari (1964) and Ama Lur (1968), and a documental about the artist.
BASQUE COSMOGONY SERIES
1. AKELARRE and AKER BELTZ (Black billy goat)
Meadow where wizards met on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights to worship Aker Beltz, a spirit which took the shape of a billy goat and protected the livestock. Pagan tradition.
3. EIZTARIA (The hunter)
Legend has it that a hunter, punished for his excessive love of hunting, wanders ceaselessly over the mountains with his dogs.
4. GAUEKO (He who stalks the night)
Spirit of the night in the shape of a cow or a monster; his presence is marked by gusts of wind.
5. IDITTU (Night spirit)
Night spirit with the form of an animal; his presence is marked by a flame.
6. ILLARGI AMANDRE (Godmother Moon)
A divinity associated with fertility.
7. INTXIXU (Wild demon)
Legendary spirit haunting caves and deserted areas.
8. AMALAU ZANKO (The ghost of the fourteen stilts)
A strange malignant being.
9. ARGIZAIOLA eta ARGIZAIOLA ZUTA (Light of the dead)
Tablets in remembrance of the departed; the wax scroll symbolizes the fire in the hearth that lives on in the temple.
11. BOST HAIZEAK (The five winds)
Natural phenomenon. The lauburu (four heads) is a pre-Christian symbol, used from the 16th and 17th centuries in funeral steles, on houses fronts or as an amulet or charm.
12. EATE (The harvest destroyer)
Spirit of storms, fire, floods, lightning and hurricanes.
13. MAIRUAK (The cromlech builders)
Pagan builders of dolmens and cromlechs.
14. OSTADAR (Rainbow)
Natural phenomenon considered to be magical in the ancient world.
15. TRIKU HARRI (Stone of the hedgehog. Homage to the dolmen)
Name of a dolmen, a prehistoric monument widely found in the Basque Country.
16. MAJUE (Subterranean spirit)
Pernicious underground spirit; with his wife Mari he conjures up hailstorms.
17. MARI (Main goddess of Basque Mythology)
Female spirit living in caverns. Legend has it that her cave is one of the faces of Mount Amboto, in the Duranguesado area.
18. TORTO (Malign one-eyed spirit)
Malignant, man-eating spirit with one eye.
04|30|14 • 08|25|14
05|16|14 • 09|01|14
06|10|14 • 09|15|14
10|07|14 • 01|19|15
THE GUEST WORK
04|09|14 • 06|30|14
02|18|14 • 05|19|14
01|24|14 • 04|28|14