Woman after years of not being financially able.

Woman with a fan, was
a Post-Impressionist painting created by Paul Gauguin in 1902. The painting
features a young woman sitting in a wooden chair and holding up a fan. When
looking at the painting, you can notice the defined shades which indicate the
photographic source from which it was painted. It is suggested that this woman
is the transposed representation of Vairaumati, who was the central figure in a
Maori myth about immortality. Paul Gauguin was in a state of deteriorating
health when he moved to the Marquesas Islands in 1901 but he still managed to
be very productive in those final years of his life and created some of his
most notable work. During the final years of Gauguin’s life, his goal was to build
a path to artistic freedom for future generations.

Gauguin
had several rifts with Parisian art critics. They believed that his work was
dependent on the poets of the symbolist center he frequented.1
However Gauguin believed that transposing the ideas of literature artists was
not stealing.  His struggle with critics
such as Émile Bernard, Félix Fénéon and
Camille Mauclair eventually pushed him to make the move to the Marquesas in
1901 after years of not being financially able. His idea behind moving to the
Marquesas islands was to separate himself from the literary standard but even
after moving, he had not completely escaped the art critics and continued to
receive negative opinions; this time for creating paintings with names that
didn’t describe the piece.2

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The
identity of the Woman with a Fan, had
only ever been seen as the beautiful portrait of Tohotaua, based on a
photograph that was taken in the studio of Gauguin, several months before his
passing.3
The painting and the photograph are not identical. Many things were altered
when put into the painting. There is a resemblance to Tohotaua in her
artificial position and the fan remains faithful to the photograph. The fan in
the painting is unaltered from the photograph. It features the French national
colours of blue, white and red and was believed to have had two uses, to
represent high class and liberty and to direct the viewer’s attention to
Tohotaua.4 

Gauguin
adapted certain biblical parables to Oceanian myths and translated Eve and the
Virgin Mary into Polynesian archetypes.5 He mixed Christian tales with
Polynesian myth by transforming Vairamauti into the new Eve. Eve is often seen as
a symbol of rebirth which was important to Gauguin, and he would seek to acknowledge
the myth of Vairamauti at points in his life when death and rebirth were strong
in his thoughts.6

The
fan that represents freedom suggests that
Gauguin was expressing his creative freedom
through the way that he transformed his paintings of Vairamauti; making
Tohotaua the final version of the goddess.7
Gauguin’s Vairamauti in comparison to the woman in Woman with a Fan have differences, the most important is that the
Tohotaua appears to be divine in
comparison, depicted almost glowing. When Gauguin moved to the Marquesas, he became
very intrigued with the Polynesian myth of Vairamauti and transposed her image until
she became the beautiful goddess in Woman
with a fan. The myth of Vairamauti was coming to an end and that Woman with a Fan is was the final
transposition of the goddess.8

After
his health declined, Gauguin immersed himself in contemplating the fate of the
soul and longevity of art.9
 He created memorable photographs that he
hoped would crystallize the audacity of his innovations.10 Woman with a Fan is such a unique piece
of artwork that will continue to secure Gauguin a place in the continuum of art
history. It serves as a beacon to propagate his claims to posterity. 11

 

 

Benjamin Wests Bibliography

 

Carson, Hampton L. “The Life and Works of
Benjamin West.” The Pennsylvania Magazine
of History and Biography 45, no. 4 (1921): 301-319.

Duffy, Michael H. “West’s ‘Agrippina,
Wolfe’ and the Expression of Restraint.”
Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 58, no. 2 (1995): 207-225.

Landis, Charles I. “Benjamin West and the
Royal Academy.” The Pennsylvania Magazine
of History and Biography 50, no. 2 (1926): 134-148.

Prown, Jules David. “Benjamin West and the
Use of Antiquity.” American Art 10,
no. 2 (Summer 1996): 28-49.

Rather, Susan. “Benjamin West, John Galt,
and the Biography of 1816.” The Art Bulletin 86, no. 2 (June 2004): 324-345.

 

            Jacques Louis David Bibliography

Carrier, David. “The Political Art of
Jacques-Louis David and his Modern-Day American Successors.” Art History 26, no 5 (November 2003):
730-751

Fleckner,
Uwe. “Respiration and Inspiration: Jacques-Louis David’s Image
of Chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and His Wife Marie-Anne.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, no 4 (October
2014): 545-564

Heidi E.
Kraus. “David’s Roman “Vedute”.” Studies in
Eighteenth-Century Culture 38, no. 1 (2009): 173-197. 

Korshak, Yvonne. 1987. “Paris and Helen by
Jacques Louis David: choice and judgment on the eve of the French Revolution.” Art Bulletin 69, (March 1987): 102-116

Tauber, Christine. “New Identities, New Genalogies: Jacques-Louis David’s Artistic
Self-Depictions Following Thermidor 9, 1794.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 79, no. 3 (July 2016):
331-364

 

 

 

 

1 Gauguin mounted his own campaign to advocate the artist’s right to
dispose of his sources and inspiration at will. See June Hargrove, “‘Woman with a
Fan’: Paul Gauguin’s Heavenly Vairaumati – a Parable of Immortality,” 552.

2  Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are
We Going? was impossible to
decipher without its title. See June Hargrove, “‘Woman with a Fan’: Paul Gauguin’s Heavenly Vairaumati – a Parable
of Immortality,” 552

3 Louis Grelet took the
picture of Tohotaua when visiting Gauguin’s studio in 1902. See June Hargrove,
“‘Woman with a Fan’: Paul Gauguin’s
Heavenly Vairaumati – a Parable of Immortality,” 555.

4 It is suggested that
Tphptaua is of higher class because the fan used in the painting is not common
in Polynesia. See June Hargrove “‘Woman
with a Fan’: Paul Gauguin’s Heavenly Vairaumati – a Parable of
Immortality,” 556.

5 -as in Te nave navefenua {Delightful Land) and la Orana Maria {We
Greet Thee Mary). See June
Hargrove “‘Woman with a Fan’: Paul
Gauguin’s Heavenly Vairaumati – a Parable of Immortality,” 563

6 The my of Vairamauti helped Gauguin show the importance of
transposition in his art. See June
Hargrove “‘Woman with a Fan’: Paul
Gauguin’s Heavenly Vairaumati – a Parable of Immortality,” 558.

7 See June Hargrove “‘Woman with a Fan’: Paul Gauguin’s
Heavenly Vairaumati – a Parable of Immortality,” 558.

8  The myth began to have
personal meaning to Gauguin, that he linked to a story of rebirth. See June Hargrove “‘Woman with a Fan’: Paul Gauguin’s Heavenly Vairaumati – a Parable
of Immortality,” 561.

9 He became obsessed with the idea of being forgotten and wrote three
books in the last year of his life. See
June Hargrove “‘Woman with a Fan’: Paul
Gauguin’s Heavenly Vairaumati – a Parable of Immortality,” 563.

10 See June Hargrove “‘Woman with a Fan’: Paul Gauguin’s Heavenly
Vairaumati – a Parable of Immortality,” 563.

11 See June Hargrove “‘Woman with a Fan’: Paul Gauguin’s
Heavenly Vairaumati – a Parable of Immortality,”

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