Faa Iheihe (Tahitian pastoral) (1898; French Polynesia) by Paul Gauguin

Faa Iheihe (Tahitian pastoral) - Paul Gauguin - 1898; French Polynesia

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Artwork Information

TitleFaa Iheihe (Tahitian pastoral)
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1898; French Polynesia
Dimensions86 x 113 cm
Art MovementPost-Impressionism
Current LocationTate Modern, London, UK

About Faa Iheihe (Tahitian pastoral)

“Faa Iheihe (Tahitian pastoral)” is an emblematic work by the French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin, completed in 1898 during his time in French Polynesia. The artwork is an oil on canvas, measuring 86 by 113 centimeters, and it belongs to the genre of nude painting (nu). Currently, this piece is housed in the Tate Modern, located in London, UK, contributing to their collection of influential Post-Impressionist works.

The artwork portrays a captivating pastoral scene with a rich, warm palette that is characteristic of Gauguin’s style during his Tahitian period. On the left, the spectator can observe a figure of a nude woman standing in profile, her gaze directed towards a central scene featuring an equine subject and its rider. The horse, rendered in deep blacks and browns, contrasts with the vibrant background and the delicate tones of the female figure’s skin. Meanwhile, a male figure, who appears indigenous and is also in the nude, is shown astride the horse with a poised balance, engaging in an activity that suggests a communion with nature.

The aesthetic duality of repose and action, as embodied by the stillness of the standing woman and the dynamic pose of the horse and rider, is indicative of Gauguin’s fascination with the idyllic and harmonious life he idealized in Tahiti. Gauguin’s use of flat planes of color alongside a distinctive application of outline encapsulates the Post-Impressionist movement’s departure from naturalism and showcases his personal artistic exploration, combining symbolism and an abstracted sense of form.

The earthy tones that dominate the palette evoke a sense of the landscape’s richness, while the composition itself reflects a departure from European artistic conventions, embracing elements of the exotic locale which Gauguin sought to capture in his work. This is further accentuated by the Tahitian name of the piece, ‘Faa Iheihe,’ foregrounding the cultural context that profoundly influenced Gauguin’s artistic production at this stage in his career.

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