Why Are You Angry? (1896; French Polynesia) by Paul Gauguin

Why Are You Angry? - Paul Gauguin - 1896; French Polynesia

Artwork Information

TitleWhy Are You Angry?
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1896; French Polynesia
Dimensions95.3 x 130.5 cm
Art MovementCloisonnism
Current LocationArt Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, US

About Why Are You Angry?

The artwork titled “Why Are You Angry?” is an oil on canvas painting created by Paul Gauguin in 1896 during his time in French Polynesia. Gauguin’s piece is an excellent example of the Cloisonnism movement, characterized by bold outlines and vibrant color fields. The artwork’s dimensions are 95.3 x 130.5 cm, and it falls under the genre painting category. Currently, the painting is housed at the Art Institute of Chicago, located in Chicago, Illinois, United States.

In this compelling artwork, Gauguin captures a scene of everyday life in French Polynesia with a profound sense of mystique. The painting features several figures, predominantly women, set against the backdrop of a tropical landscape. The central figure stands in a profile position, draped in a dark blue garment, gazing into the distance with an enigmatic expression that may reflect the painting’s questioning title. To her left, two women sit on the ground; one is looking down thoughtfully, while the other has her back turned to the viewer, generating a sense of unspoken narrative. In the background, under the thatched overhang of a hut, a seated woman gazes out, and further back, two figures are engaged in daily activities, one hanging clothes and the other barely visible in the shadows.

Gauguin’s stylized rendering of the Polynesian landscape is saturated with color, and his use of outlines to demarcate areas of color showcases the influence of Cloisonnism. The richly colored flora—greens, reds, and yellows—complements the figures’ more subdued palette. Form and composition work together to create an atmosphere that is dreamlike yet grounded in the reality of the subjects’ experiences, reflecting the artist’s fascination with the culture and lifestyle of the area. Gauguin’s work invites viewers to ponder the mood and thoughts of the figures, aligning with the evocative nature of the painting’s title.

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