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

La Belle Angèle

Oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

In October 1889, Gauguin settled in Marie Henry's inn at Le Pouldu, an isolated village in Brittany. One after the other, he produced such works as The Yellow Christ, The Green Christ or The Calvary, La Belle Angèle. These works showed that he was in full possession of his art, with an equally masterful control of vision, plastic form, and technique.

Things sacred are present in the background of Gauguin's portraits, which he wanted to put in expressive harmony with the faces, according to the Symbolist doctrine which inspired also Van Gogh. Strange anguished faces are whirling around Meyer de Haan in Nirvana. Gauguin regarded things sacred as linked with a darkly virgin and barbaric power. The Idol was to bring him that which God no longer gave him.

Gauguin placed the first of his idols, motionless and mysterious, near the Belle Angèle. He no doubt was inspired by the Chimu pottery of the northwest coast of Peru and its stirrup portrait vases. A branch of Gauguin's family is Peruvian and there is definite evidence that he was familiar with Peruvian vases.

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