The encounter (1892; French Polynesia) by Paul Gauguin

The encounter - Paul Gauguin - 1892; French Polynesia

Artwork Information

TitleThe encounter
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1892; French Polynesia
Art MovementCloisonnism

About The encounter

“The Encounter,” a mythological painting by Paul Gauguin, was created in 1892 during his time in French Polynesia. Employing oil on canvas, Gauguin capitalizes on the stylistic nuances of Cloisonnism, a movement known for its bold outlines and flat areas of color, heavily influenced by both the stained glass art of the Middle Ages and Japanese prints.

The artwork features a distinctly polychrome palette, harmonizing vivid, exotic tones with earthy hues to evoke an otherworldly atmosphere. Most prominent within the composition is a native Polynesian woman standing in the foreground. She is depicted with her arms folded, wearing traditional attire with a Pareu draped around her lower body. Her expression is serene yet inscrutable, and her gaze does not meet the viewer, suggesting introspection or perhaps a focus on something unseen.

Beside the woman, there appears a large, spectral bird-like figure with its wings dramatically unfolded, rendered in a palette contrasting that of the woman and landscape, drawing particular attention to its supernatural quality. Behind them unfolds a landscape characterized by undulating forms that depict rolling hills, while in the far background, a structure resembling a hut offers a glimpse into the locale’s indigenous architecture.

The ground is delineated with stones arranged in an arc, perhaps suggesting a sacred or significant place. The colors, stark outlines, and the dreamlike symbiosis of the figure with her environment encapsulate Gauguin’s departure from naturalism, giving form instead to the ineffable qualities of myth and symbolism that pervade his work from this period. This piece reflects Gauguin’s fascination with and romanticized interpretations of the cultures and spiritual beliefs of the people of French Polynesia, effectively blending his perception of their world with his own artistic innovation.

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