In this painting with the lyrical title Vahine no te tiare (Woman with a Flower), Gauguin has portrayed his Tahitian sitter in powerfully luminous colors. Her missionary’s dress in its subdued, cool bluish violet stands out from the dark red of the chair and at the same time offers a complementary contrast to the warm yellow of the background. A white flower is tucked into her black hair, and Gauguin skillfully introduces further floral motifs as decoration on either side of her figure. The fascination that the Tahitians and their physiognomies held for Gauguin is made explicit in his book Noa Noa, published in 1897. Describing a local young woman who sat for him as a model, he recalled: “She had a flower behind her ear, which was listening for her fragrance”. There is poetry of a similar kind in the title Vahine no te tiare, which the artist has written as an inscription directly onto his canvas. The painting, executed in 1891, was the first work that Gauguin sent back to France from Tahiti.
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