We Hail Thee Mary (1891) by Paul Gauguin

We Hail Thee Mary - Paul Gauguin - 1891

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Artwork Information

TitleWe Hail Thee Mary
ArtistPaul Gauguin
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions113.7 x 87.7 cm
Art MovementCloisonnism
Current LocationMetropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY, US
Location Created French Polynesia

About We Hail Thee Mary

The artwork titled “We Hail Thee Mary” was created by the esteemed artist Paul Gauguin in 1891. Exhibiting the technique of Cloisonnism, which is characterized by bold and flat forms separated by dark contours, this oil on canvas piece is part of the allegorical painting genre. It measures 113.7 by 87.7 centimeters and was painted during Gauguin’s time in French Polynesia. The piece is currently housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art located in New York City, New York, USA.

“We Hail Thee Mary” is a synthesis of Gauguin’s impressions of Tahitian culture and the Christian iconography he brought with him from Europe. The artwork replaces the traditional European depiction of the Virgin Mary and the angel Gabriel with Tahitian figures, interpreting the Annunciation through the lens of the artist’s experiences in the South Pacific. Gauguin employs vibrant tropical colors and simplified forms, with the figures draped in brightly patterned garments of blue and red, respectively. A woman stands in the center, her expression serene; she holds a small child while an angelic figure with outspread wings hovers behind her on the left, and another figure appears on the right.

Foreground elements include a colorful assortment of flowers and fruits, which not only enhance the visual allure of the piece but also symbolize the lush environment of the island. The inscription “IA ORANA MARIA” (Hail Mary in Tahitian) at the bottom further establishes the religious significance and local context of the narrative. Through this artwork, Gauguin merges the sacred with the secular, the local with the foreign, creating a piece that is both spiritual and earthy, and which provides an enthralling insight into the artist’s interpretation of two disparate worlds converging.

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