Paul Gauguin Eu haere ia oe (Woman Holding a Fruit)
Paul Gauguin's 1893 Woman Holding a Fruit is a product of one of the most descisive self-imposed exiles in art history. Tired of the frigidity and austerity of his native France, the great post-Impressionist painter Gauguin upped sticks and moved to the tropical island of Tahiti in search of new colours, sounds, and experiences. For the artist the small island was the personification of the life for which he yearned; untouched, untainted, and embedded in a presumed sense of naturalism. In search of harmony and virtue, the artist spent two years in Tahiti. Woman Holding a Fruit coincides with his first period in the region when he was struck by the exotic sense and allure of his new destination. Documenting the rituals, everyday lives, flora and faunae, and interpersonal interactions of the islanders, Gauguin's canvas is a work of enthusiasm and passion, steeped in a belief in the all-pervading rhyhtms and harmony of 'primitive' man amongst the natural world. In the foreground a young girl balances a large, awkward-looking fruit in his hand. Depicted on a flat spatial plane, forged with a rhythmic recurring series of forms, the painting emerges as a work of graphic ingenuity that prefigured the decorative movement in art that would soon follow thousands of miles away in Paris.
The white lines upon the black background evoke a vague sense of distance, but the soft contours of the adjacent color schema are more reminiscent of an internal architecture. Most likely staged next to the artist's colonial house in Tahiti, the attitudes of the women are impassive, the only surge of emotion emanates from the floral pattern of their dress. The distinct harmony of decorative colors, streaked with white highlights and palm fibers breaks the pictorial conventions of the nineteenth century. Gauguin's characters seem to overlap in a spatial dimension that seems paradoxically both crowded and sparse, as if the artist had understood the scene in close-up without really worrying about depicting the scene spatially. Unlike other painters of his generation Gauguin's tight alignment of characters imparts a monumentality to their isolation and insignificance, lending a sense of distance to subjects that are often framed in imtimate proxmity to the viewer. The artist's Tahiti experiment had little direct precedent and forged some of the most stunning and disturbing insights into the artistic imagination at the close of the nineteenth century.
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