Arearea (Joyousness (I)), 1892

The potent inspiration that Gauguin drew from the orallytransmitted myths and religious traditions of the native Polynesians is also documented by his painting Joyousness (I), in which observed reality, sacred ritual and imaginary idyll exist side by side. In the foreground, two lightly clad women are seated beneath a tree, one playing a flute and the other listening attentively. In the background, Maohi women are dancing in front of a monumental cult statue. The same scene reappears in Gauguin’s painting Matamua (also in this room) from the same year, where it is viewed from a greater distance: “Paradise” becomes a collage element, a moveable piece of scenery. In the harmony between human, animal and landscape, between colors and forms, the composition as a whole seems infused with the bewitching sounds of the flautist. For Gauguin, in fact, music and painting were closely related: “Musicians are special. Sounds, harmonies. Nothing else. They live in a world all their own. Painting, too, should be in a class by itself. Music’s sister, it lives on forms and colors. Those who have thought otherwise are on the
brink of defeat.”

Oil on canvas, 75 x 94 cm, Musée d‘Orsay, Paris, legs de M. et Mme Lung, 1961 ; Photo: © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

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