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Painting: "Where are we from? What are we? Where are we going ? And other metaphysical questions

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"Where are we from? What are we? Where are we going? (1897-1898), by Paul Gauguin. Leemage

Where are we from? What are we? Where are we going? is an oil on canvas by Paul Gauguin, 131.9 cm high and 374.6 cm long, frieze format. It was painted in the winter of 1897-1898, during the second stay of the artist in Tahiti, from 1895 to his departure for the Marquesas Islands, in 1901. Sending To his friend Georges-Daniel de Monfreid, placed in deposit with the merchant Ambroise Vollard who exposes him in the winter of 1898, sold in 1901 to the collector of Bordeaux Gabriel Frizeau, returned on the market in 1913, passed by Denmark and Germany, it was finally acquired in April 1936 from a New York gallery by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for $ 80,000. Since then, it has been one of his masterpieces and one of the artist's best known.

There are fourteen human figures, including a child in the lower age, a barely visible nude in the background and the large gray sculpture with bare breasts and arms outstretched.

One of the most difficult too. There are fourteen human figures, including a child in the lower age, a barely visible nude in the background and the large gray sculpture with bare breasts and arms outstretched. Add two birds, a white on the left, holding a lizard under its claws, and a blue-gray and red-brown in the center, a goat, two white cats and a black dog leaping. This fauna is frequent in Gauguin since the first Tahitian stay of 1891-1893, as well as the trees with sinuous branches and the landscape of lagoon and mountains in the bottom.

It is sometimes easy to describe the attitudes of human figures. A young man picks a fruit in the center while a young girl wrapped in a gray dress eats another fruit, sitting on the floor. The newborn, lying on a gray surface that is probably a stone. But it is much more often impossible to be precise. The four naked or almost naked women sitting on the right, including two backs, do nothing, otherwise they may be bored or dreaming. It is even more difficult to pronounce on the vahinà © và © và © due of blue, standing near the statue, and the two women with long dresses of a pink dyed surrounded by a dark halo which makes them more spectral still. This inventory ends with the two upper corners: on the right, on a light yellow background, a bush, a little identifiable animal and the signature of the painter; On the left, the three sentences that make up the title, without question marks. Which title, by the magnitude of the questions launched, calls an interpretation of the metaphysical kind: origin, nature and future of the human species.

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