Horses in art

Riders ashore

picture Riders ashore:: Paul Gaugin - Horses in art
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1902, oil canvas 66 x 76 sm, Museum Folkvang, Essen

In September 1901, Gauguin left Tahiti and settled on the Marquesas Islands.

The reason for this escape is still unclear: while Gauguin's admirers suppose that the artist was looking for new landscapes for his paintings, most historians mention that during this period his health condition was very bad and note the fact that the artist, who used to be very popular with Tahitian girls, had to desist from sex in those years. But whatever the reason for the move, Gaugin settled on Hiva Oa, the largest island of the Marquesas Archipelago, on land owned by the Catholic Church. On the eve of his departure, the artist painted a beautiful picture, which became a kind of farewell to Tahiti - "Idyll on Tahiti" (1901, Zurich, private collection E.G.Behrle). The woman's figure continues to occupy the most important place in the artistic theme of Gauguin. In Aboriginal Tales (Legends of a Stranger Land, 1902, Essen, Folkwang Museum), the artist again praises the beauty of Polynesia, portraying two beautiful girls posing against the background of an exotic landscape. Behind them, Gauguin placed the image of his friend Meyer de Gunn, a Parisian poet. It was quite unusual that the artist painted Western man as a demon with cat eyes and sharp claws. However, now Gauguin begins to feel the approaching dissolution: his health become worse day by day, and the artist goes through an irresistible temptation - for the first time in many years - to return to Europe. But, despite all this, he still has enough energy to write pictures. The pictures of the last years of his life are filled with metaphors of death. This is especially evident in his last masterpiece - the picture "Horsemen on the Coast" which was written in two versions (Essen, Folkwang Museum, and the private collection of Niarchos).

In the spirit of Degas, Gauguin paints horsemen on the seashore, which seems boundless. The whole picture is pierced with a sense of sadness, farewell, a premonition of his death (which will come a few months later). Horsemen calmly approach to the sea, where ruthless waves draw a boundary between land and water - or between life and death - and from where appear two mysterious spirits dressed in vivid robes that must probably accompany the living on their last journey-a journey into death. The luxurious colors, brightness, richness of this work is, in its own way, Gauguin's will and his last enthusiastic hymn of life in Polynesia. On May 8, 1903, suffering from numerous financial and juridical troubles and health problems, Gauguin died. Legends (which, as you know, are not always true) say that an aborigine who reported the artist's death shouted: "Gauguin is dead! It's not paradise here! "

image: Public domain

Submitted by: Nikka

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