Te raau rahi (The Large Tree (I)), 1891

In June 1891 Gauguin reached his long desired goal: Tahiti. He was fascinated by the exotic world he found on the French Polynesian island. The Large Tree (I) was one of the first paintings he produced in the South Seas and offers an idealizing representation of the luxuriant flora and foreign lifestyle of the native inhabitants. In a classic compositional layout with foreground, middle ground and background,
Gauguin shows five Tahitian women in traditional dress in front of a simple hut. Their still, introspective poses and the stylized carpet of vegetation casting no naturalistic shadows allow us to see, however, that the artist has composed the work according to his own aesthetic standards. The two women seated under the tree on the left can also be seen in another painting in this room, Parau api. What’s New?, completed the following year in 1892. Here they are presented in close-up, in vibrant colors and ornamental splendor. Gauguin has thereby largely renounced any attempt to portray them realistically embedded within their natural surroundings.


Oil on fabric, 74 x 92,8 cm, The Cleveland Museum of Art, gift of Barbara Ginn Griesinger, 1975; Photo: © The Cleveland Museum of Art


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