Martiniquaise (1889)

Gauguin, Paul (1848-1903)

Martiniquaise (Woman of Martinique)
Painted clay, textile, paper, wooden base, 19.7 × 11.1 × 7 cm
Princeton University Art MuseumPrinceton

This sculpture reveals an array of references to non‑Western cultures that the artist defined as “primitive.” Created after Gauguin’s 1889 trip to the West Indies, the figure incorporates women’s faces and headdresses he could have observed there. The left arm and hand, however, were inspired by Javanese Buddhist reliefs that Gauguin knew from photographs he purchased in 1889 at the Paris World’s Fair. The sculpture was part of the decor that Gauguin and other artists made for the dining room of their landlady in Brittany, a region that interested them because of its “primitive” nature and Celtic roots. Its material has historically been identified as terracotta, but recent analysis revealed a metal armature inside. It must have been constructed of clay that was not fired but allowed to dry naturally, perhaps to seem more archaic. (PUAM)

See also:

• Martinique (France)