Christmas Night (The Blessing of the Oxen)
Nuit de Noël (La Bénédiction des Boeufs), is a rendering of a traditional Christmas card scene by the French Symbolist painter Paul Gauguin (1848-1903). For "Christmas Night (The Blessing of the Oxen)", a strong, herring-bone twill canvas, was used, the fabric assisting in the production of a dull matt surface, and with the herringbone texture apparent where the paint layer is thin. The contours were outlined directly on the primed canvas in vermillion and dark ultramarine or Prussian blue paint. The modelling was built up in flat areas of contrasts with outlines and contours reinforced, with light illuminating the snow field on the right side of the canvas. Within the broad colour areas the tones were unified with blues: contrasted with warmer lighting above the horizon: a cold warm contrast of red-orange and blue. The colour was applied wet over dry to exploit the texture of the canvas by dragging layers of opaque colour over one another and allowing previous colours to show through.
It was probably painted by Gauguin in French Polynesia rather than in the Brittany landscape from which the work draws inspiration. The family, in the snowbound shelter, are iconic. On his departure from France, Gauguin's explanation was that, "I want to create a simple art." His palette for this work included
- 1906 - Salon d'Automne exhibition, cat. no. 69, "La Bénédiction des Boeufs.
- 1966 - The painting was sold at auction at Christie's, London.
- 1988 - It was acquired as a partial gift, partial purchase by the Indianapolis Museum of Art - their web site uses a content management system similar to the one used to build this site. In 2010 the museum will also be home to the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, be one of the largest museum art parks in the USA, and the only one to feature the ongoing commission of site-specific artworks.