I was in Boston on Tuesday, had a couple extra hours, and went to the Museum of Fine Arts to see my favorite painting in their collection: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? by Paul Gauguin (1848–1903). It was a grey and rainy afternoon, the museum was as close to empty as it ever gets, and I spent forty-five minutes in relative quiet looking at the painting. Always an amazing experience, but especially good when able to be alone in its presence.
|Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?|
54 3/4 x 147 1/2 inches Oil on canvas 1897–98
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
I've often said that the painters of the early Renaissance have had a major impact on my thinking, but Gauguin's work has also been an extremely significant influence.
He was a wonderful colorist, the light radiating out from within the picture - especially in his Tahitian work - and his compositions are sublime. In this painting, two triangles improbably balance each other: a large one on the right filled with golden colors, containing the young women, and a smaller triangle on the left with the darker tones of the elderly woman and her companion. The arms of the blue idol in the background complement the movement and anchor it.
|detail: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?|
Below are two more of my favorite paintings by Gauguin ... again, beautiful color and composition:
23 5/8 x 45 5/8 inches Oil on canvas 1897
Courtauld Institute Galleries, London
|Two Tahitian Women|
37 x 28 1/2 inches oil on canvas 1899
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Footnote: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? was sent to Paris upon completion and consigned to the art dealer, Ambroise Vollard. It then went into three or four private collections, before being acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts in 1936 from the Marie Harriman Gallery in New York for $80,000 (ca. $1,350,000 today).