Paul Gauguin - The Bathers [1897]

This work was painted after Gauguin's return to Tahiti from Paris. Notice how the colours of these later pictures are nuanced, more blended than the flatter, more intense hues found in the earlier ones. He has still outlined many of his shapes, yet they nonetheless appear softer, and the large areas of colours are neither so bold nor so distinct. Here, especially, the coarse texture and heavy weave of the canvas add a tapestry-like effect. Whereas the earlier works from Tahiti are vivid and direct, those painted during this second trip have a more dreamlike appearance and spiritual intensity. The figures are more monumental, with an aura of timelessness and dignity. And their colour is more expressive.

Gauguin had always been preoccupied with the role of colour, calling it a "profound and mysterious language, a language of the dream." He described its effects as akin to music and its relationships to musical harmonies. The gentle tones here, the soft mat of pinks that carpets the foreground, the swirls of lavender water, seem to be scented with the sweet perfumes of paradise. This is one of the most sumptuous of all Gauguin's paintings. 

[Oil on canvas, 60.4 x 93.4 cm]