Faa Iheihe

1898, Paul Gauguin

On loan from Tate: Presented by Lord Duveen 1919, © 2000 Tate

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In 1891 Gauguin travelled to the South Pacific islands, where he stayed for nearly the rest of his life, mostly on the island of Tahiti. The title of this painting is almost certainly a misunderstanding on the artist's part of the Tahitian word 'fa`ai`ei`e' which means "to beautify, adorn, embellish", in the sense of making oneself beautiful for a special occasion.

In common with many of his other paintings of the period, for example 'Where Do We Come From? What are We? Where are We Going?' of 1897 (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts), Gauguin has used a horizontal format inspired by Javanese sculptured friezes. Some of the individual figures, such as the central woman, are also taken from such friezes. The three women on the left and the horseman reappear in 'Rupe Rupe (Luxury)' of 1899 (Moscow, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts).


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