Maternite II (1899; Punaauia, French Polynesia) by Paul Gauguin

Maternite II - Paul Gauguin - 1899; Punaauia, French Polynesia

Artwork Information

TitleMaternite II
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1899; Punaauia, French Polynesia
Dimensions95 x 61 cm
Art MovementPost-Impressionism

About Maternite II

“Maternité II” is an evocative artwork by the artist Paul Gauguin, created in the year 1899 while he was in Punaauia, French Polynesia. This oil on canvas painting measures 95 by 61 centimeters and is classified within the genre of portraiture. Gauguin’s work is associated with the Post-Impressionist movement, a genre that sought to defy the limitations of Impressionism by focusing on the symbolic, structural, and subjective parts of human experience rather than merely capturing fleeting moments in time.

The artwork presents a serene scene of motherhood and communal life. It features three figures set against an abstract and colorful background. To the left, a woman with her back slightly turned towards the viewers holds a bundle of green leaves, perhaps a representation of nourishment and the nurturing aspects of nature. She is dressed in a traditional blue garment that wraps around her body. At the center, another woman stands with grace and elegance, adorned in a vivid orange and pink wrap, with white flowers placed effortlessly in her dark hair.

In the foreground, a seated woman is depicted engaging in the intimate act of breastfeeding an infant. The rich earth tones and gentle outlines of her figure contrast with the bright hues of the background, bringing a sense of calmness and grounding to the scene. Her partial disrobing and the act of nursing underscore the theme of maternal care and the profound bond between mother and child.

Gauguin’s distinct use of color, where unrealistic shades serve to convey mood and emotion, is evident throughout the composition. The simplification of forms and the decorative quality exemplify the Post-Impressionist movement’s departure from naturalism. Overall, “Maternité II” embodies a celebration of life’s basic rhythms and the central role played by women in the tapestry of existence, all rendered in Gauguin’s signature style that blends European sensibilities with the influences of his Polynesian surroundings.

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