The loss of virginity (Awakening of spring) (1891; French Polynesia) by Paul Gauguin

The loss of virginity (Awakening of spring) - Paul Gauguin - 1891; French Polynesia

Artwork Information

TitleThe loss of virginity (Awakening of spring)
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1891; French Polynesia
Art MovementSynthetism
Current LocationChrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA, US

About The loss of virginity (Awakening of spring)

“The Loss of Virginity (Awakening of Spring)” by Paul Gauguin is an oil on canvas allegorical painting created in 1891, during the artist’s time in French Polynesia. This artwork, associated with the Synthetism movement, is characterized by its symbolic use of form and color. The painting is part of the collection at the Chrysler Museum of Art located in Norfolk, VA, in the United States.

The artwork presents a dreamlike scene where the natural world intertwines with allegorical symbolism. The central figure is a nude woman lying on her back on a bright orange blanket, with her feet pointed towards the viewer and her gaze directed upwards, seemingly in a state of surrender or contemplation. A fox-like creature sits comfortably on her torso, gently placing one paw on her throat. This enigmatic figure may symbolize the awakening or loss described in the title.

The background of the artwork features a contrasting landscape of stark greens and blues, with hills rolling into the distance under a segmented sky, alternating between shades of blue and a more neutral color. In the middle ground, a narrow road or a path, bordered by red soil, leads off into the distance where a procession of figures is visible, which could suggest a human journey or pilgrimage within the broader narrative hinted by the painting’s title.

Gauguin’s style, as evidenced here, shows a bold departure from naturalistic representation, opting instead for a stylized depiction of forms and deliberately unnatural colors to convey meaning and emotion. The use of flat areas of color and the lack of three-dimensional perspective are hallmarks of Synthetism, and Gauguin’s work contributes significantly to this avant-garde movement by rejecting the conventional approaches of the time in favor of a more synthesized and conceptual representation of reality.

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