Paul Gauguin (1848–1903): Portrait of a Young Woman. Vaïte (Jeanne) Goupil
Oil on canvas | 75 x 65 cm | 1896
The picture was painted on Tahiti and shows a French girl, Jeanne Goupil, who was the daughter of the lawyer Auguste Goupil, who had settled down with his family on a plantation near Papeete. Vaïte was her Tahitian name, and her father had ordered a portrait of her from Gauguin.
There is a penetrating Symbolistic atmosphere about the picture: the colours are strong, the wallpaper pattern and the mask-like face almost hypnotize the observer standing before the picture. As a portrait of a young girl the picture is extremely enigmatic. The depiction of the girl Vaïte is quite subordinated to the picture’s overall ornamental character. Gauguin has framed the girl and her dress with a blue contour line which helps to insist on the significance of line and surface rather than volume or a body. The sphere of dreams is characteristic of Gauguin’s pictorial world, and in a way parallels his idea of a dream-world far from European civilization.
In his early years Gauguin was influenced by Impressionism, but his work can first and foremost be called Symbolist. When he went to live on Tahiti in 1895 it was as part of a movement away from civilization towards a life based on a dream of Paradise and primitivism. A central characteristic of Gauguin’s work is the questing, experimental nature of both his life and work.
Motifs: Portraits, still lifes, landscapes, pictures with motifs from Brittany and Tahitian motifs.
Read more about Gauguin at the Musée d’Orsay’s website.