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Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Gauguin was born in Paris but lived with his mother in Peru (1851-55). In 1871 he entered the firm of a Paris stockbroker. He painted on Sundays. Gauguin met Pissarro in 1875 and initially Gauguin’s work was close to the Impressionists in subject matter and color scheme. He exhibited with the group five times. By 1886 he had abandoned small, visible brush marks in favour of large areas of flat color and introduced an innovative color scheme that suggested a sense of heightened reality. Gauguin called this technique Synthetism and declared that he hoped painting would return to exploring the “interior life of human beings”. Starting in 1883 Gauguin had devoted himself solely to painting. His travels to Brittany in 1886 and, a year later, to Martinique and Panama, had led him to be inspired by primitive arts and he looked for ideas in Buddhist temple sculptures, Japanese prints, medieval tapestries, folk art and the architecture of Breton Churches. His work became concerned with dreams, myths and visions, influenced partly by his time in Tahiti, where he moved in 1891.
Ancestors of Tehamana
Day of the Gods
Haere Mai
Vanilla Grove
Sacred Spring
Sunflowers
Nativity

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Ancestors of Tehamana
Oil on canvas, 1893; 76.3 x 54.3 cm
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Deering McCormick, 1980.613
Paul Gauguin turned away from the Impressionist desire to show the world as we see it. By removing himself to such remote places as Martinique, Brittany, and, finally, Tahiti, he rejected the modern world and what he considered to be its tired and decadent aesthetic traditions. As its title indicates, Ancestors of Tehamanais not just a portrait of the artist's Tahitian mistress, but a study of the mythic elements of non-Western culture. Posed somewhat stiffly, the beautiful young woman seems to listen intently to the messages of the ancestor spirits represented symbolically in the relief behind her.

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