(b. 1848, Paris, d. 1903, Atuona, Hiva Oa, French Polynesia)

Caribbean Woman with Sunflowers

Oil on canvas, 64 x 54 cm
Private collection

In October 1889 Gauguin returned to Le Pouldu, where he stayed at the inn of Marie Henry with Meyer de Haan. Shortly after their arrival, they began to decorate the inn's dining room and this work was one of the panels Gauguin produced. It hung above the entrance doorway with a second version of Bonjour Monsieur Gauguin. The work's decorative purpose meant that Gauguin could capitalize on the heavily stylised forms, bold colours and abstract patterns which he had used in earlier works.

The hieratic figure of the woman is a deliberate attempt to make reference to the kind of non-Western art that Gauguin had seen earlier that year at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, where he was particularly influenced by the art in the French colonial section. In fact, the pose of the woman is borrowed from a photograph of the Javanese temple at Borobudur, and was to reappear in later Tahitian works, including Ia Orana Maria which, like the Caribbean Woman with Sunflowers makes no attempt at authenticity but rather combines cultural references in the desire to evoke not so much a pantheistic vision as a deliberately 'savage' and 'primitive' flavour, which Gauguin was increasingly failing to discover in Brittany.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.