The emphasis of the painting lies in its symbolism and the geometric alignment of the principal subjects. The symmetry of Landscape with a Pig and a Horse (Hiva Oa) dominates the entire painting. A central viewing point is created by three tree trunks painted in shades of pale mauve. One trunk stands to the left, there is one on the right, and between them, but positioned much further back, is the third. This triangular frame immediately draws the eye to centre of the canvas and the two animals, the pig and the horse.
Although Gauguin's work is often in the flat, two-dimensional style of synthetism, the trees convey perspective. The colourful drifts of foliage in blue, russet and green, form increasingly pale layers that recede into the background. However, Gauguin's sense of perspective remains primitive and devoid of intricate shading. Conversely, the brushstrokes of the landscape are well-defined. The short, vertical strokes appear to be applied at speed. They form a distinct contrast to the peaceful, calm atmosphere conveyed by the animals.
The small, black pig is standing by the left-hand tree just inside the central triangle. The horse is positioned between the central and right-hand trees, and appears to be about to enter the triangular arena. The animals are facing each other, but their postures are stationary and passive, displaying a warm, mutual friendship. Their relationship symbolises Gauguin's close friendship with the islanders of Hiva Oa. The pig is a native animal of the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia, but the horse, like Gauguin, came to the island in the late nineteenth century. This idea is further enhanced by the pig's position near the traditional hut that's partly obscured by the left-hand tree. Gauguin was inspired by Matisse and Bernard, then influenced Pablo Picasso. His experiments with bold colours largely originate from his tempestuous collaboration with Vincent van Gogh. It's highly possible that Landscape with a Pig and a Horse (Hiva Oa) was Gauguin's last canvas before his death in 1903. It became part of the Ataneum Collection of Helsinki, where it has remained since 1908.