Fatata te Miti (1892)

Gauguin, Paul (1848-1903)

Fatata te Miti (By the Sea)
Oil on canvas, 67.9 x 91.5 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Two nude women with brown skin and long black hair stand with their backs to us at a riverbank in this stylized horizontal painting. The body of the woman to our left is angled to our left with her hands raised, presumably about to plunge into the teal-colored water. The woman to our right unwraps a cloth patterned with bright yellow flowers on a deep purple background from her waist. Between the women and farther away, a bare-chested man, also with brown skin, wears a tomato-red garment across his hips as he stands hip-deep in the water holding a long spear. The top of his head is cropped by the top edge of the painting. Along the left edge of the canvas, a gnarled tree is painted as a flat field of dark, charcoal gray, and it rises off the side and top of the composition. An area of the same color, perhaps a thick root or the trunk growing nearly horizontally, spans the width of the painting, separating the women from us. The area around the trunk to our left and right is painted with fields of evergreen and cool mint. Closer to us, along the front of the root, a field of rosy pink swirls with grape purple to suggest sand. This area is dotted with harvest-yellow and pumpkin-orange vines and stylized flowers. A bunch of vivid orange flowers with pine and spring-green leaves sits on the root near the trunk, to our left. Most of the painting, especially the landscape, is painted with areas of mostly flat color. In the bottom left corner, the artist has written the title of the painting in darkred paint: “Fatata te Miti.” In the lower right corner, he signed and dated the work with periwinkle blue: “P. Gauguin 92.” (NGA)