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

Nirvana, Portrait of Meyer de Haan

c. 1890
Oil thinned with turpentine on silk, 20 x 29 cm
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford

This picture was painted during Gauguin's stay in Le Pouldu, Brittany. Meyer de Haan (1852-1895) was a Dutch industrialist who sold his factory to his brothers and started to study painting. He settled in France. In Paris he met Pissarro, Theo van Gogh, and Paul Gauguin, whom De Haan accompanied to Brittany - first to Pont-Aven, and later to Le Pouldu, on the coast of Brittany.

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.

Gauguin depicted Meyer de Haan several times in painting and in graphics. He is also represented in Gauguin's late painting Barbaric Tales.

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