The Green Christ, along with The Yellow Christ, is considered as one of the first and most significant works of Symbolism in painting. It is a 92 x 73 cm oil on canvas which is located at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels.
"With this painting, I tried to make everything breathe faith, quiet suffering, religious and primitive style and great nature with its scream" – Paul Gauguin in a letter to Theo van Gogh on The Green Christ
The work depicts a peasant Breton woman at the foot of a stone sculpture of the crucifixion of Christ. Such sculptures, known as cavalries, are common in Brittany.
The cavalry is painted in shades of green where three woman hold the lifeless body of Christ. Behind the woman, the landscape is painted in brilliant colours depicting green dunes and the shoreline.
It is thought that the cross is based upon the cavalry outside the village church at Nizon which is close to Pont-Aven, and the figure of Christ resembles the one at the Calvary in Briec. The site, topographically, is that of the coast at Le Pouldu.
The work is based on John 19:25 in the Bible which reads, "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene."
The painting is filled with symbolism, from the peaceful green, to the interlocking of various scenes, to the idea of transcendence through suffering.
He likens the simple people of Breton to the simple Christ, and that it is their rooted, and modest faith which offers them a source of holiness and divinity. He expresses that this very simplicity allows them to accept their suffering with a beautiful solemnity.
Gauguin does not paint realistic forms, but it is subjective and personal. These unrealistic colours, broad swooping lines, and massive shapes increases the painting's expression and symbolism.