The Loss of Virginity, 1890

In Pont-Aven (Brittany), Gauguin pursued his artistic path away from reality and towards abstract and symbolist imagery in paintings characterized by luminous colors and simple forms. He firmly demarcated individual color fields and bounded them with clear outlines, whereby only the relative
proportions of the figures still point to the different spatial planes. In this picture, too, the body of the young woman lies on a seemingly flat carpet of colors. Gauguin conveys the loss of virginity invoked in the title via the fox, who as carnal desire in animal form lays a paw on the woman’s breast. In a very similar manner to Gauguin’s wooden statuette Lewdness, the girl holds a plucked flower between
her fingers—another symbol of stolen innocence. Figures in local peasant dress are approaching in a sort of procession in the distance, and yet at the same time seem to be just a few inches above the tufts of grass and the woman’s toes. Gauguin’s innovative concept of pictorial plane and pictorial space reveals itself here in his bold stacking of horizontal zones of color, starting from the ocher foreground with the
woman lying down and ascending through luminous reds, greens and blues to the thin streaks of cloud in the sky.


Oil on canvas, 89,5 x 130,2 cm, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.


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