Paul Gauguin
Te Arii Vahine (The Queen, the King's Wife). 1896

In this canvas, one of the most important of his second Tahitian period, Gauguin polemicises openly with the European painting tradition. The beautiful Tahitian girl lies with a serene majesty amid fragrant vegetation. Her pose echoes the compositions of Manet's Olympia and Titian's Venus of Urbino, yet the similarity of plastic motifs merely emphasises the "synthetic" character of Gauguin's art, which combines several religious subjects, myths and visual images freely in the same work. Next to the beautiful girl, identified by specialists as the artist's Tahitian wife, he depicts the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and elders conversing together. The rich, vivid colours and complex compositional rhythms lend the picture an almost decorative resonance. "I don't think I've ever done anything with such a strong, impressive ring about it. The trees in blossom, the dog on guard, and the two doves cooing on the right. But what's the point in sending this canvas to Paris, when there are already so many others there unsold that have caused such a rumpus. This would produce an even bigger rumpus", Gauguin confessed in a letter to a friend in April 1896.

Paul Gauguin

1848–1903