Mar 8, 2011

Head of a Tahitian Woman

Head of a Tahitian Woman


Paul Gauguin

(French, 1848–1903)

Graphite with stumping and graphite wash on parchment

Support: Imitation vellum

Sheet: 30.5 x 24.4 cm (12 x 9 5/8 in.)

Mr. and Mrs. Lewis B. Williams Collection 1949.439

Did you know?

In his writings, Gauguin often referred to his drawings as "documents"—records of motifs and ideas he could use later.


This drawing belongs to a group of highly finished portrait drawings of Tahitians made by Paul Gauguin shortly after his arrival in the South Seas. While getting used to this new place, Gauguin initially avoided painting, preferring first to familiarize himself with the landscape and people through observation and drawing. The meticulous quality of this graphite study suggests that it was made from life. The woman’s noble face and enigmatic expression allude to the spirituality and melancholy that Gauguin sought to conjure in his Polynesian work.

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