Martinique, 1887 Paul Gauguin (1848 - 1903)
oil on canvas,
86 cm x 116 cm
Credits (obliged to state): Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
The Caribbean island of Martinique offered Paul Gauguin the idyllic, unspoiled surroundings he had longed for in Paris. He drew and painted the local people going about their daily tasks, and was impressed by the graceful movements of the women: ‘Their gestures are quite extraordinary; their hands play an important role, in harmony with the swaying of their hips.’
Gauguin used expressive brushwork and warm colours to capture his new surroundings. The Mango Trees, Martinique still has something of an Impressionist feel, but the exotic, decorative touch and striking composition are characteristic of Gauguin’s later style.
The primitive conditions of the tropical island took their toll: Gauguin suffered badly from fever and dysentery, and returned to France in a weakened state. Shortly after arriving in Paris, he met the Van Gogh brothers, who were both impressed by this painting. Vincent later described it as ‘high poetry’. Theo bought the work for 400 francs for his own collection – the most expensive art purchase he ever made.