The Grasshoppers and the Ants: A Souvenir of Martinique, from the Volpini Suite: Dessins lithographiques

Series/Portfolio: Dessins Lithographiques

Artist: Paul Gauguin (French, Paris 1848–1903 Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands)

Date: 1889

Medium: Zincograph on chrome yellow wove paper; first edition

Dimensions: Sheet: 13 3/8 × 18 7/8 in. (34 × 48 cm)
Image: 8 7/16 × 10 1/4 in. (21.5 × 26.1 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1922

Accession Number: 22.82.2(4)


On the fairgrounds of the Paris World's Fair 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 a pictorial souvenir 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.