Paul Gauguin 1848-1903 BACK

Woman with a Fan
Oil on canvas 92 x 73 cm
Essen, Folkwang Museum

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The model for this work, Tohotaua, reappeared in 'Contes Barbares' , but the painting itself was based on a photograph of the woman taken in 1901 and found in Gauguin's effects after his death in Hivaoa. Although the pose in the painted version is broadly similar to that in the photograph, Gauguin has made a number of important changes. Instead of coolly appraising the viewer as in the photograph, the woman here gazes into space, and the mood is not unlike that in 'Faaturuma'. The pareo with which Tohotaua covered her breasts in the photograph, has been changed and the image becomes much more overtly erotic. The position of the fan has been moved slightly, so that it covers her right breast in a provocative fashion, not unlike the fruit in 'Ea haere ia oe?'. In making these changes, Gauguin has constructed an image of an archetypal Polynesian woman, passive and sexually available.

Gauguin (Colour Library)
by Alan Bowness

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