Maternity (Three Women on the Seashore) (1899; Punaauia, French Polynesia) by Paul Gauguin

Maternity (Three Women on the Seashore) - Paul Gauguin - 1899; Punaauia, French Polynesia

Artwork Information

TitleMaternity (Three Women on the Seashore)
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1899; Punaauia, French Polynesia
Dimensions94 x 72 cm
Art MovementCloisonnism
Current LocationHermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

About Maternity (Three Women on the Seashore)

The artwork “Maternity (Three Women on the Seashore)” was created by Paul Gauguin in 1899 in Punaauia, French Polynesia. This oil on canvas creation measures 94 x 72 cm and is a striking example of the Cloisonnism art movement. Identified as a portrait, the artwork embodies a significant moment in Gauguin’s exploration of maternal themes and is currently housed at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

In the artwork, three distinct female figures are prominently displayed against a backdrop that captures the essence of the seashore. The color scheme is vibrant and delineated with bold outlines, a signature of the Cloisonnism style, emphasizing the flat planes of color. The trio of women appears composed and serene in their environment. The central figure stands erect, clutching a bundle of white flowers, drawing attention to her with the apparent significance of this gesture. To the left, another woman engages the viewer directly with a gaze that seems pensive yet inviting, holding what appears to be a fruit. The woman on the right is seated, breastfeeding an infant, her posture reflecting the intimacy and nurturing of motherhood. Each figure is adorned or accompanied by distinctly Polynesian cultural elements, reflecting the influence of Gauguin’s immersive experience in the region. The presence of a goat and the simplification of forms in the background further serve to harmonize humanity with the natural world.

Detailing the environment, one can observe that the seascape is depicted with heavy stylization, featuring a setting or rising sun which bathes the scene in an atmosphere of transitional light. There are abstracted figures in the distance, adding depth and a sense of community to the composition. This artwork uniquely captures the convergence between the exotic subject matter and the European avant-garde aesthetics that Gauguin is known for, providing a window into his artistic journey and the cultural encounters that shaped his oeuvre.

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