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Tahitian Woman and Boy, 1899

Paul Gauguin

French, 1848-1903
Oil on canvas
37-1/4 x 24-3/8 in. (94.6 x 61.9 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Gauguin sailed for Tahiti in 1891. A former stockbroker and primarily self-taught artist, he left behind both his family and what he regarded as the bourgeois constraints of modern French society, but what he found in the South Seas was not the primitive paradise he’d hoped for. Tahiti was already a French colony; the wicker chair and the high-necked gown shown in this portrait testify to the presence of European merchants and missionaries. Despite his initial disappointment and his rapidly declining health Gauguin’s years in Tahiti were the most important of his career. Drawing inspiration from his tropical surroundings and a cast of island models (the female sitter for this portrait may have been his teenaged consort, Pau’ura), Gauguin forged a new vision for modern art: sensuous, mysterious, radiantly, riotously colorful.

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