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Art Critique: Boys in a Pasture vs. Children Wrestling

While the basic nature of art is mimetic, these representations of reality functions to give an account of events and people that needs to be remembered. Art therefore partakes in accounting the history of mankind in relation to nature.

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Winslow Homer’s painting “Boys in a Pasture” and Paul Gauguin’s “Children Wrestling” are a case in point. Both paintings reflect a naturalist framework that depicted the innate and dedicated fondness of children on the natural environment, which at the same time reveals the ideal peace and harmony that both artists try to portray.  Their artistic approaches reflect Henry David Thoreau’s (1992) natural history which principally reflects the significance of the objectives and systems of science in humanity.


Aside from the mode of painting which is oil painting in canvass, both painting have similar elements, children and nature.

The Boys in a Pasture can be considered to portray Homer’s reminiscence of his own childhood while at the same time conveying a positive outlook for a brighter future considering that it was painted after the American Civil war.  Homer’s principal source of inspiration for the painting was the American rural scene which depicted the serenity, peace and simplicity of life.

In the same vein, Gauguin’s painting contained the themes of peace and contentment however set in the ambiance of Brittany.  It also conveys a positive outlook by depicting children playing in nature. It must be noted that wrestling is contextualized as a regional tradition.

“It was the practice for young Breton villagers to participate in wrestling matches after Sunday mass” (Dorra, p92)  Children and children playing are often used as representation of innocence, youthfulness and purity of thoughts vis a vis the corruption of mind that is attributed to maturity.

  While Gauguin apparently uses this concept, Homer’s depiction of natural innocence was also reflected with his use of daisies which may have been derived from William Wordsworth’s ritualistic exultation to youthfulness, “To the Daisy” of 1802.  (Scoggins, 1966)

Finally, both Homer and Gauguin have their figures of persons with averted faces which are not particularly identifiable so that they can more effectively and generally represent a universal concept of children or youth.