The Invocation (1903; French Polynesia) by Paul Gauguin

The Invocation - Paul Gauguin - 1903; French Polynesia

Artwork Information

TitleThe Invocation
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1903; French Polynesia
Dimensions65.5 x 75.6 cm
Art MovementPost-Impressionism
Current LocationNational Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, US

About The Invocation

“The Invocation” is an artwork completed in 1903 by French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin during his time in French Polynesia. Gauguin’s art during this period focuses on the life and scenery of the region. The artwork is an oil on canvas genre painting, measuring 65.5 by 75.6 centimeters. It belongs to the Post-Impressionism movement and is currently housed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, US.

The artwork depicts a tropical landscape suffused with the vibrant, emotive color characteristic of Gauguin’s later work. In the foreground, there are several figures that capture the viewer’s attention. To the left, two seated individuals, possibly male, appear deeply engaged in conversation or contemplation. Their earth-toned clothing blends with the land, suggesting a deep connection to their environment. In stark contrast, a central figure stands prominently, fully nude and with her arms dramatically raised towards the sky in what can be interpreted as an act of invocation or prayer. Her pose is echoed by the distant crucifix on a hilltop, evoking themes of spirituality and perhaps the interplay between indigenous beliefs and introduced Western religion.

To her right, two more figures, adorned in brightly colored garments, stand in a more reserved posture. They seem to be observers or perhaps participants in the ritual being performed by the central figure. The background shifts from the intense, reddish hues of the earth to the cooler tones of the vegetative greens and the lilac sky, lending the whole scene an otherworldly and dreamlike quality. A sense of serenity and mystery pervades the artwork, inviting contemplation of the customs and inward life of the island’s inhabitants as imagined by Gauguin.

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