Words of the Devil (1892; French Polynesia) by Paul Gauguin

Words of the Devil - Paul Gauguin - 1892; French Polynesia

Artwork Information

TitleWords of the Devil
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1892; French Polynesia
Art MovementPost-Impressionism

About Words of the Devil

The artwork titled “Words of the Devil” was created by the renowned artist Paul Gauguin in 1892 while he was in French Polynesia. This work is a drawing executed with pastel on paper, showcasing Gauguin’s participation in the Post-Impressionism movement. The genre of this piece can be categorized as a sketch and study, which often serves as an exploration of ideas or a preliminary work that an artist uses to inform a final piece.

The artwork illustrates a nuanced interplay of color and form, displaying Gauguin’s tendency to explore the primal aspects of human life and emotion. The figure in the artwork appears to be a woman who stands in a nuanced pose suggesting contemplation or distress. She holds one hand to her mouth, a gesture that may imply thought or concern. The human figure’s body is rendered in naturalistic detail, yet imbued with the emotive quality of color that is characteristic of Gauguin’s style. The tones of blue and yellow around the figure create an atmosphere that enhances the emotional tenor of the work.

Another figure, seemingly smaller and perhaps whispering into the ear of the larger figure, is noticeable to the left. This might symbolize the whispering of tempting or corrupting words, as suggested by the title of the artwork. The juxtaposition of these two figures invokes a narrative quality, sparking curiosity about the story behind the scene.

The use of pastel allows for a soft yet impactful use of color, and there is a discernible texture that adds depth to the study. The overall composition, color palette, and subject matter all contribute to the feeling of the piece, which is reflective of Gauguin’s broader body of work during his time in French Polynesia, where he sought to capture the essence of the life and people he encountered there.

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