What Are We? Where Are We Going? Paul Gauguin Post Card

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About This Item

In 1891, Gauguin left France for Tahiti, seeking in the South Seas a society that was simpler and more elemental than that of his homeland. In Tahiti, he created paintings that express a highly personal mythology. He considered this work—created in 1897, at a time of great personal crisis—to be his masterpiece and the summation of his ideas. Gauguin’s letters suggest that the fresco-like painting should be read from right to left, beginning with the sleeping infant. He describes the various figures as pondering the questions of human existence given in the title; the blue idol represents “the Beyond.” The old woman at the far left, “close to death,” accepts her fate with resignation.

Inscription Upper left: D'ou Venons Nous / Que Sommes Nous / Où Allons Nous; Upper right: P. Gauguin / 1897

Tompkins Collection—Arthur Gordon Tompkins Fund

36.270

Oil on canvas