Between 1886 and 1890 Gauguin abandoned Paris for a series of sojourns in Brittany, a province in western France. Owing to its Celtic origins, Brittany attracted artists seeking an “exotic” culture seemingly untouched by bourgeois society. Immersing himself in the local community, Gauguin developed a visual language that simplified the natural environment to make it more expressive and dreamlike. The year that he painted this scene of a peasant tending pigs in the picturesque village of Pont-Aven, Gauguin wrote to a friend: “I like Brittany. Here I find a savage, primitive quality. When my wooden shoes echo on this granite ground, I hear the dull, muted, powerful sound I am looking for in painting.”
When Norton Simon purchased The Swineherd in 1955, it was the seventh—and most significant—work of art to enter his collection. Thanks to the generosity of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which received the painting as a gift from Lucille Ellis Simon, we are delighted to reunite this masterpiece with related pictures from Simon’s holdings of post-impressionist art. The Swineherd is on view at the Museum until November 2022.