In 1891, Gauguin left France for Tahiti, seeking in the South Seas a society that was simpler and more elemental than that of his homeland. In Tahiti, he created paintings that express a highly personal mythology. He considered this work—created in 1897, at a time of great personal crisis—to be his masterpiece and the summation of his ideas. Gauguin's letters suggest that the fresco-like painting should be read from right to left, beginning with the sleeping infant. He describes the various figures as pondering the questions of human existence given in the title; the blue idol represents "the Beyond." The old woman at the far left, "close to death," accepts her fate with resignation.
Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
- Paul Gauguin, French, 1848–1903
- Image: 139.1 x 374.6 cm (54 3/4 x 147 1/2 in.) Framed: 171.5 x 406.4 x 8.9 cm (67 1/2 x 160 x 3 1/2 in.)
- Medium or Technique
- Oil on canvas
- Allegorical; Landscape; Nude; Oversize - Horizontal
- Catalogue Raisonné
- Wildenstein 561
- Accession Number
- On view
- Charlotte F. and Irving W. Rabb Gallery (Europe, 1900–1960 / Modernism) - 155