38-5 | European Painting and Sculpture

Painting - French


Paul Gauguin , French , French, 1848 - 1903
Faaturuma (Melancholic), 1891

Oil on canvas
Unframed: 37 x 26 7/8 inches (93.98 x 68.26 cm) Framed: 45 7/8 x 36 x 2 3/4 inches (116.52 x 91.44 x 6.99 cm)

Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust

Gallery Location: P13

Gallery Label

Gallery Label
Paul Gauguin French, 1848-1903 Faaturuma (Melancholic), 1891 Oil on canvas

Gauguin's non-naturalistic use of color and form had already become part of his style before he left France for Tahiti, where this picture was painted. Gauguin's vision of the South Pacific, where he hoped to experience an artistic renewal, was of an earthly paradise of mystery and magic in complete contrast to the urban culture of modern Europe. Faaturuma, the title of this painting, is taken from an inscription on the frame of the painting represented in the upper left corner. In Tahitian, the word refers to an overcast sky, and Gauguin uses it metaphorically to imply a troubled state of mind. The fixed, lowered gaze and languished form of the young woman combine with iridescent color and sinuous drawing to evoke a melancholy reverie.

Purchase: Nelson Trust, 38-5

Gallery Label
Paul Gauguin, French, 1848-1903

Faaturuma (Melancholic) 1891 Oil on canvas 37 x 26-3/4 inches (94.0 x 68.0 cm)

Purchase: Nelson Trust [38-5]

Gauguin painted this picture some three months after his arrival in Tahiti on June 8, 1891. Its subject traditionally has been identified as Tehura, the young mistress Gauguin describes in his journal, Noa Noa. Only recently have critics begun to doubt this identification. The age of this sitter--who appears in identical costume in the painter's Two Women on the Beach (1891; Musée d'Orsay, Paris)--can hardly be that of the 13-year-old Tehura.

Gauguin's title, Faaturuma, is inscribed on the frame of the unidentified landscape painting which hangs on the back wall of the room (surely one of the artist's own works). The Museum's picture evokes a mood of quiet detachment or melancholia and suggests something other than straightforward portraiture. The arabesque forms of the dress and rocking chair seem to accentuate the sitter's isolation, while the simple color scheme based on the primary colors of red, yellow and blue further contribute to the monumental character of the figure. The general composition seems to have been inspired by Corot's La Lettre (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), a photograph of which is known to have been among Gauguin's possessions in Tahiti.

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