Paul Gauguin’s Healthy Advice

Paul Gauguin, The Ham, 1889, Oil on canvas

Paul Gauguin, The Ham, 1889 (detail). Oil on canvas, 19 3/4 x 22 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1951.

A brief story in the Washington Post about the health value of onions (“nutritional powerhouses” according to Runners World magazine) made me think of one of my favorite works in the collection. Those little onions in Paul Gauguin’s painting The Ham (1889) set next to the slab of ham have long been the subject of folk lore and even folk  medicine. According to the article, onions “help protect the brain, keep the heart healthy, strengthen bones, reduce cancer risk and aid digestion.” The rosy pink color of Gauguin’s onions indicates that they are likely Roscoff onions, a distinctive and popular crop in Brittany,  historically sold by men called Onion Johnnies, who hung bunches of onions by their braided stalks from the handles of their bicycles.

Lisa Leinberger, Volunteer Coordinator

Early Ballet Films

Degas thought of himself as a painter of movement. As lovely as his paintings are, his dancers are frozen in their poses, beautiful bugs in amber. What if we could go back in time to watch a performance?

When motion pictures were invented, the camera was focused on anything that moved – trains, people, horses, and yes, dancers. There are no movies of ballet dancers during the late 19th century, but there are a precious few of ballet during the early 20th (close enough). With film, a famous dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet could be watched anywhere over the globe, or, a century later, delight us over the internet.

La Sylphide solo 1903

Pas de Deux 1902

Dance exercises at the barre 1920

And this beguiling couple….
Geltzer & Tikhomirov, husband and wife in the Bolshoi Ballet – Pas de Deux

This last performance reminds that, aside from the dance master, there are no male dancers in Degas’s ballet scenes. This recalls Gauguin’s paintings of Tahiti, in which there are few, if any, men depicted. Was Degas, like Gauguin, creating his own private paradise?

Ianthe Gergel, Museum Assistant