Rupe rupe (The Fruit Harvest), 1899

This exhibition includes two paintings that stand out from all the rest in terms of their sheer size alone. The larger of the two—Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? of 1897–98—was conceived as a monumental wall painting: an enigmatically somber work laid out over a “gold ground”, or so at least its two upper corners, carrying the title and Gauguin’s signature, appear to suggest. In the case of The Fruit Harvest, completed a little later, this gold-colored ground runs through the whole picture. It glows like a divine aura around the heads of the three female figures, and in the lower half of the picture intermingles with nature as warm patches of sunlight. Even if the carefully balanced composition gives rise to a rhythm of light and dark, of vertical accents and various rounded forms, the overall impression is one of stillness and great calm. The existential questions “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” do not present themselves here. With The Fruit Harvest, Gauguin has created a place where such concerns are no longer relevant—a vision of the paradise that, despite feverish searching, he never found in his lifetime.
Oil on canvas, 128 x 190 cm, The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; Foto: © The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

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