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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


Sacred Spring: Sweet Dreams (Nave nave moe)
Oil on canvas. 74x100 cm
State Hermitage Museum

Gauguin returned from his first stay in Tahiti (1891-1893) to spend nearly two years in Paris, where he painted this work. The exotic world of Oceania had captured the artist's imagination with its harmony of man and nature, with what he saw as the preservation of primitive simplicity. This work captures his recollections of Tahiti and his romantic dreams of the harmony of all on earth.

The Tahitian girls symbolise different stages in life. The young islander with the halo above her head, deep in sleep, is the embodiment of virgin purity, while the second girl with the fruit in her hand, ready to take a bite, is like Eve. In the depths of the landscape islanders are dancing around an idol, some mysterious ancient god.

The canvas reveals the artist's very individual style with its pure colours applied in generalised flat areas which, like the lines, are subjugated to a single rhythm.
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