Still Life with Three Puppies (1888) by Paul GauguinMoMA The Museum of Modern Art
This charming puppy portrait is split into three balanced 'zones'.
There's a still life of fruit, plump and tasty in the foreground...
...a row of three blue goblets and apples to whet the appetite, dividing the canvas in two across the middle...
...and, finally, our three thirsty little puppy pals enjoying a drink from a large pan.
The three groups of three highlight the dogs' activity in contrast to the stillness of the rest of the composition, but also balance them as part of a broader design. The table is tilted unnaturally towards the viewer, inviting us to eat, drink and pet!
When Gauguin painted Still Life with Three Puppies, he was living in Brittany among a group of experimental painters, including Emile Bernard. He abandoned naturalistic depictions and colors, declaring that "art is an abstraction" to be derived "from nature while dreaming before it."
The puppies' bodies are outlined in bold blue...
...and the patterning of their coats mirrors the botanic print of the tablecloth.
It is thought that Gauguin drew stylistic inspiration for this painting from Japanese prints, which were introduced to him by his friend and fellow artist Vincent van Gogh that same year, and from children's book illustrations.