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

Ea haere ia oe? (Where Are You Going?)

Oil on canvas, 91 x 71 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Despite the prominence and importance of titles in Gauguin's art, their meaning is often far from evident, and there seems to be a degree of capriciousness in their choice. It is far from clear who is posing the question here and indeed why, although the woman's insistent gaze seems to suggest direct communication with the spectator. It is possible that it was posed to the artist himself by the archetypal Tahitian woman, since Gauguin was to leave Polynesia later that year. If that is so, then the ripe exotic fruit she nurses to her breast becomes a symbol of the sensual gratification he will leave behind by going back to French 'civilization'. Quotations from other paintings are included, most notably the crouching maiden from Nafea faa ipoipo, who acts as a further reminder of what he will miss.

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