This huge canvas painted in oil in 1897 by the artist Paul Gauguin, is a long frieze kept in the Museum of Bostonand perhaps the most emblematic creation of this prolific master of the Post-Impressionist. period
The work must be framed in the most reflective and philosophical moment of his entire life. And to check it, just look at its title: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? A clear manifestation of the existential doubts that occupied Gauguin's mind at that time. Something that came from a painful illness he was suffering from.
Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
The result is that he became obsessed with extremely tragic questions, which he was obviously unable to answer. Something that a year later, in 1898, would lead him to attempt suicide. Fortunately, however, as soon as his he alth began to improve, he turned back to his work as a painter. And despite that depressive period and so much reflective load in his painting, unlike other painters from his generation, he did manage to be successful and sell his paintings. And all this, with the inconvenience of his stay on the islands ofFrench Polynesiaand his theme being so far removed from European painting
Gauguin it was actually theinspiring for painters of a later generation like Matisse who conceived Fauvist art. And it is that Gauguin's art seeks the objective of going beyond the limits of painting to basically create forms of color that intensely reveal the drama of the human soul, the doubts that grip man, the hopes that move him and the despair that they paralyze We know all this not only from what his works transmit, but also from his written testimonies. Since during the time he settled in Polynesia, specifically in Tahiti, he regularly sent letters to his French friends, especially to Monfried, who of somehow he became her distant confidant located thousands of miles away in the West.
Therefore, we know that for Gauguin, color becomes a symbol, but not of a literary nature, it does not concern themes, but sensations. And with a certain enigmatic tone, Gauguin went so far as to write that “what is essential in a work consists precisely in what is not expressed”.
These ideas are present in all the paintings he made in Tahiti, where he went looking for its primitive culture, and the rites and strange beliefs that surrounded it. That is why in many of his images, such as theMata Mua or Los Viejos Tiemposexhibited at theThyssen Museum in Madrid, you can see a naive character in his work, a certain environmental purity
But he does not try to reflect the ways of life of the Haitians, but rather to give us a poetic impression of them, giving his imagesa marked decorative air. Something he did throughout his production on thePolynesia. In whose islands he resided from the year 1895, settling not only in Tahiti, but in other islands of the archipelago, until the year of his death, 1903, the date on which he died on the island ofAtanua.