Riders on the shore by Paul Gauguin

Riders on the shore by Paul Gauguin

In September 1901, Gauguin left Tahiti and settled on the Marquesas Islands. The reason for this flight still remains unclear: while Gauguin’s admirers assume that the artist was looking for new landscapes for his paintings, most historians mention that during this period his health condition was very poor and note the fact that the artist, who used to be very popular with Tahitian girls, had to refrain from sex in those years.

But whatever the reason for the move, Gaugin settled on Khiva Oa, the largest island of the Marquis Archipelago, on land owned by the Catholic Church. On the eve of his departure, the artist created a beautiful picture, which became a kind of farewell from Tahiti – “Idyll on Tahiti.”

The image of a woman continues to occupy the most important place in the artistic theme of Gauguin. In Aboriginal Tales, 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.

And yet now Gauguin begins to feel the approach of death: his health deteriorates day by day, and the artist experiences 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 works of the last years of his life are filled with metaphors of death. This is especially evident in his last masterpiece – painted in two versions of the painting “Riders on the coast.” In the spirit of Degas, Gauguin depicts horsemen on the seashore, which seems boundless.

The whole picture is permeated with a sense of sadness, farewell, a presentiment of one’s own death. Riders calmly approach 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, juiciness of this work is, in a way, Gauguin’s will and his last enthusiastic hymn of life in Polynesia. May 8, 1903, being torn apart by numerous financial and legal troubles and health problems, Gauguin died. Legends say that an aborigine who reported the artist’s death shouted: “Gauguin is dead! It’s not paradise here!”

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