The Grasshoppers and the Ants: A Souvenir of Martinique, from the Volpini Suite: Dessins lithographiques, 1889
Paul Gauguin (French, 1848–1903)
Zincograph on chrome yellow wove paper; first edition; 7 3/4 x 10 1/4 in. (19.7 x 26 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.82.2(4))
On the fairgrounds of the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889, at Volpini's Café des Arts, Gauguin exhibited a brand new suite of ten zincographs printed on bright yellow paper. Known as the Volpini Suite, the prints served as pictorial souvenirs of Gauguin's recent travels in Brittany, Martinique, and Arles.
Here, Gauguin depicts a group of women by the sea in Martinique. Some walk along a path balancing baskets on their heads while others rest upon the ground. Their graceful poses and balletic movements have a decorative, choreographed quality. Gauguin was enchanted by the women he encountered on the French Caribbean island, as he described in a letter: "The thing that makes me smile the most are the figures, and each day it's a continual coming and going of negresses dressed up in colored garments with graceful movements infinitely varied." The title of the work refers to a fable by Jean de la Fontaine.