Contes barbares (1902) by Paul Gauguin

Contes barbares - Paul Gauguin - 1902

Artwork Information

TitleContes barbares
ArtistPaul Gauguin
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions130 x 91.5 cm
Art MovementPost-Impressionism
Current LocationFolkwang Museum, Essen, Germany
Location Created French Polynesia

About Contes barbares

The artwork “Contes barbares” is by Paul Gauguin, a renowned artist associated with the Post-Impressionism movement. It was created in 1902 using oil on canvas as the medium. This allegorical painting measures approximately 130 x 91.5 cm and is currently housed at the Folkwang Museum in Essen, Germany. Gauguin crafted this work during his time in French Polynesia, an area that profoundly influenced much of his later work.

The artwork presents a captivating and mystical scene featuring three figures in an exotic landscape, which reflects Gauguin’s fascination with the culture and people of French Polynesia. The composition is characterized by the use of bold colors and strong outlines typical of Gauguin’s style and the Post-Impressionist movement as a whole, which sought to convey emotion and symbolism rather than a realistic representation of the subject.

In the foreground of the painting, there are two prominent figures seated next to each other: a young man and a woman, with the woman appearing to whisper into the man’s ear. Both subjects are adorned with elements suggestive of Polynesian dress and decorative floral elements, connecting them further to the regional context. Their poses and expressions convey an intimate and enigmatic narrative, central to the interpretation of the allegorical nature of the work.

Behind and to the left of these two, there stands a third, more enigmatic figure with a hand to the chin and a contemplative gaze, almost appearing to watch over the scene before them. This figure, stylistically different yet integral, adds a layer of complexity and perhaps suggests a European influence or presence.

The backdrop features lush flora typical of the tropics, with flowers and foliage that frame the subjects and contribute to the dreamy, almost mystical atmosphere of the painting. The artwork’s palette is rich with earthy tones contrasted by the vibrant hues of the natural elements, creating a harmonious yet dynamic visual experience.

Each aspect of Gauguin’s “Contes barbares” works together to create a scene that is immersive and thought-provoking, capturing the allure of the exotic and the unknown that so intrigued the artist and his contemporaries, while also hinting at deeper, perhaps mythological, narratives.

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