Where Do We Come From What Are We Where Are We Going (1897) by Paul Gauguin

Where Do We Come From What Are We Where Are We Going - Paul Gauguin - 1897 - 1898

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Artwork Information

TitleWhere Do We Come From What Are We Where Are We Going
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1897 - 1898
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions139.1 x 374.6 cm
Art MovementPost-Impressionism
Current LocationMuseum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston
Location Created Punaauia, French Polynesia
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About Where Do We Come From What Are We Where Are We Going

The artwork “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” is a significant oil on canvas painted by Paul Gauguin between 1897 and 1898. This Post-Impressionist piece, which measures 139.1 x 374.6 cm, is an allegorical painting that can be found at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston. Gauguin created this emblematic artwork in Punaauia, French Polynesia.

In the artwork, one encounters a rich tapestry of life, death, and thought. At the far left, a young woman with a white bird is sitting near an aged woman, suggesting the progression of life from childhood to old age. The serene environment is populated with figures that appear in various poses and activities. Notable is a central figure of a boy surrounded by contemplative or communicating figures, contributing to the existential questioning inherent in the painting’s title. The blue idol in the background possibly represents the spiritual or supernatural element reflective of Gauguin’s absorption with metaphysical thoughts. The vivid color choices and the use of bold outlines are characteristic of Gauguin’s style and contribute to the overarching narrative that the artist had pondered on the nature of human existence. The script in the upper left corner echoes the ruminative nature of the work, inciting viewers to reflect along with the artist on the origins, purpose, and destiny of humanity.

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