GAUGUIN

An Analysis-Gauguin’s Tahitian Figures – the Stylistic Devices

Many of the human figures in the works Gauguin produced in Tahiti have a similar distant “unconcerned” air about them. Gauguin achieves this by using and re-using certain stylistic devices. Psychologically the figures never engage the viewer with eye contact. This is evident in in works such as “Two Tahitian Women on the Beach” or “The Siesta” or the very famous “Two Tahitian Women” who all appear to be psychologically engaged with  their individual concerns or something out of the picture frame.
To take as our first example “The Siesta”, the women appear not only unconcerned with the viewer but also with each other. Although they constitute a group each seems to be occupied with their separate thoughts Three of the women have their back to the viewer the other lying parallel to the picture frame seems to have her attention focused on something outside the picture frame. The fifth woman focuses on her task of ironing clothes.
A similar device is used in “Two Tahitian Women on the Beach”. One woman turned away from the viewer the other apparently engaged by something  outside the picture frame. Between them there is also no psychological connection.
This same device is apparent in “Two Tahitian Women” although they both face the viewer neither is  engaged with the viewer and both appear to be psychologically engaged with different things outside the picture frame.
Gauguin also uses other devices to emphasise the the sense of self containment we feel the figures possess. Often they are tightly “overlapped” or quite intimately close but rarely communicate with each other. Their bodies are often without “spaces” within them. Arms and legs are pulled in close to the body, or they are drawn from an angle that reduces the spaces the viewer can see.For example the women on the beach; one sits cross-legged with a dress obscuring her legs and draws her arms close to her body, the other is half turned in a way that hides the space between the arm that she leans on and her body. Neither do we often see a “whole” body. In “The Siesta” for example bodies are turned or overlapped in such a way that we see only one hand or foot or only a torso and this creates for us a sense of their intimacy as a group while contrasting their self containment as individuals. This may be a device Gauguin borrowed from Degas (who he admired). In many of Degas “ballerina” works he used the same device but rather to give a sense of immediacy to the scene.
Andrew Highton

 

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