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Two Tahitian Women

Paul Gauguin (French, Paris 1848–1903 Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands )

Oil on canvas
37 x 28 1/2 in. (94 x 72.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of William Church Osborn, 1949
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    As Gauguin brought his work in Tahiti to a close, he focused increasingly on the beauty and serene virtues of the native women. In this painting, he depended on sculpturally modeled forms, gesture, and facial expression to vivify the sentiments he had used to describe the "Tahitian Eve": "very subtle, very knowing in her naïveté" and at the same time "still capable of walking around naked without shame." These two figures first appear in the artist's monumental frieze Faa Iheihe (Tahitian Pastoral) of 1898 (Tate, London) and again in the even larger Rupe Rupe (The Fruit Harvest) of 1899 (Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow), which he composed for the upcoming Exposition Universelle of 1900.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): 99 / PGauguin

  • Provenance

    Daniel de Monfreid (until 1900; sold in September to Fayet); Gustave Fayet, Igny, France (1900–ca. 1925); [Wildenstein, New York, ca. 1925–30]; William Church Osborn, New York (1930–49)

  • Exhibition History

    Paris. Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées. "Salon d'Automne: Oeuvres de Gauguin," October 6–November 15, 1906, no. 14 (as "Deux Tahitiennes," lent by G. Fayet).

    Amsterdam. Musée Municipal Suasso. "Catalogue des ouvrages de peinture, scuplture, dessin, gravure," October 6–November 7, 1912, no. 14? (as "Les négresses," lent by Mme J. Cohen Gosschalk-Bonger).

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "French Art: 1200–1900," January 4–March 12, 1932, no. 536 (as "Deux Tahitiennes [Femmes aux Mangos]," lent by William Church Osborn, New York) [commemorative catalogue, 1933, no. 387].

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Taste of Today in Masterpieces of Painting before 1900," July 10–October 2, 1932, no catalogue (lent by William Church Osborn).

    Art Institute of Chicago. "A Century of Progress," June 1–November 1, 1933, no. 364 (lent by William Church Osborne, New York).

    New York. Durand-Ruel. "Important Paintings by Great French Masters of the Nineteenth-century," February 12–March 10, 1934, no. 19 (as "Les Tahitiennes," lent anonymously).

    Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Museum of Art. "Post-Impressionists," February 2–March 13, 1935, no catalogue (lent by W. C. Osborn [see letter in archive file dated January 11, 1951]).

    New York. Wildenstein & Co., Inc.. "Paul Gauguin: 1848–1903," March 20–April 18, 1936, no. 41 (as "Tahitians with Mangoes," lent by Mr. and Mrs. William Church Osborn, New York City).

    Cambridge, Mass. Fogg Art Museum. "Paul Gauguin: 1848–1903," May 1–21, 1936, no. 40 (as "Tahitiennes au Mango," lent by Mr. and Mrs. William Church Osborn, New York City).

    Cleveland Museum of Art. "Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition," June 26–October 4, 1936, no. 281 (as "Tahitians with Mangoes," lent by William Church Osborn).

    Paris. Palais National des Arts. "Chefs d'œuvre de l'art français," July–September 1937, no. 327 (as "Deux Tahitiennes: Femmes au Mango," lent by William Church Osborn, New-York).

    New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European & American Paintings, 1500–1900," May–October 1940, no. 354 (lent by Mr. William Church Osborn).

    New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Art in Progress," 1944, unnumbered cat. (as "Tahitian Girls [Women with Red Mango Blossoms]," lent by William Church Osborn).

    New York. Wildenstein & Co., Inc.. "A Loan Exhibition of Paul Gauguin," April 3–May 4, 1946, no. 35 (as "Tahitian Women with Red Mango," lent by Mr. and Mrs. William Church Osborn).

    Paris. Orangerie des Tuileries. "Gauguin: Exposition du centenaire," 1949, no. 54.

    Kunstmuseum Basel. "Paul Gauguin zum 100. Geburtsjahr," November 26, 1949–January 29, 1950, no. 61 (as "Die roten Blüten/Les seins aux fleurs rouges," lent by MMA).

    Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne. "Gauguin: Expostion du centenaire," February 16–April 16, 1950, no. 17.

    Hempstead, N.Y. Hofstra College. "Metropolitan Museum Masterpieces," June 26–September 1, 1952, no. 37.

    Art Institute of Chicago. "Gauguin: Paintings, Drawings, Prints, Sculpture," February 12–March 29, 1959, no. 64.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Gauguin: Paintings, Drawings, Prints, Sculpture," April 23–May 31, 1959, no. 64.

    Stockholm. Etnografiska museet. "Gauguin i Söderhavet [Gauguin in the South Sea Islands]," March 5–May 10, 1970, no. 54 (as Les seins aux fleurs rouge).

    Tokyo National Museum. "Treasured Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," August 10–October 1, 1972, no. 103.

    Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. "Treasured Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 8–November 26, 1972, no. 103.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Van Gogh as Critic and Self-Critic," October 30, 1973–January 6, 1974, no. 41.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition," December 12, 1974–February 10, 1975, not in catalogue.

    Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 73.

    Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 73.

    Art Institute of Chicago. "The Art of Paul Gauguin," September 17–December 11, 1988, no. 230.

    Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "The Art of Paul Gauguin," January 10–April 20, 1989, no. 230.

    Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. "Paul Gauguin, Tahiti," February 7–June 1, 1998, no. 55.

    Essen. Museum Folkwang. "Paul Gauguin: Das verlorene Paradies," June 17–October 18, 1998, no. 49 (as "Zwei Tahitianerinnen / Les seins aux fleurs rouges").

    Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Paul Gauguin: Das verlorene Paradies," October 31, 1998–January 10, 1999, no. 49.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Lure of the Exotic: Gauguin in New York Collections," June 18–October 20, 2002, no. 105.

    Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Gauguin Tahiti," September 30, 2003–January 19, 2004, no. 156.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Gauguin Tahiti," February 29–June 20, 2004, no. 156.

    London. Tate Modern. "Gauguin: Maker of Myth," September 30, 2010–January 16, 2011, no. 145.

    Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Gauguin: Maker of Myth," February 27–June 5, 2011, no. 145.

    Madrid. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. "Gauguin y el viaje a lo exótico," October 9, 2012–January 13, 2013, no. 14.

  • References

    Paul Gauguin. Letter to Georges-Daniel de Monfreid. 189? [Ref. Wildenstein 1964 refers to "Lettres de Paul Gauguin à Georges-Daniel de Monfreid," édition 1950, p. 152].

    Paul Jamot. "Le Salon d'Automne." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 36 (1906), p. 471, ill., relates this picture to "Three Tahitian Women" of 1897 (MMA 1997.60.3).

    Just Havelaar. "Paul Gauguin." Elsevier's Geïllustreerd Maandschrift 22, no. 44 (July–December 1912), p. 412, ill., as "Vrouwen van Tahiti," in the exhibition of Gauguin's work at the Moderne Kunst-Kring in Amsterdam.

    Paul Gauguin. Noa Noa. New York, 1919, ill. opp. p. 12, as "Girl with Fruit-Dish".

    Charles Morice. Paul Gauguin. first ed. [new ed. 1920]. Paris, 1919, ill. between pp. 108–9, as "Les seins aux fleurs rouges".

    J[ean].-G[abriel]. Goulinat. "Les collections Gustave Fayet." L'Amour de l'art 6 (January 1925), p. 134, ill. p. 141, as "Les femmes au mango".

    Paul Gauguin. Les Albums d'art Druet, 12, Paris, [1928], unpaginated, ill., as both "Porteuses des fleurs" and "Les deux porteuses de fleurs".

    A. Alexandre. Paul Gauguin, sa vie et le sens de son oeuvre. Paris, 1930, pp. 185, 259, ill., as "Et l'or de leur corps".

    Pola Gauguin. My Father Paul Gauguin. first American ed. [Norwegian ed. (?)]. New York, 1937, ill. opp. p. 172, erroneously dates it 1892.

    Charles Sterling in Chefs d'œuvre de l'art français. Exh. cat., Palais National des Arts. Paris, 1937, pp. 162–63, no. 327.

    Martin Tow. Tainted Paradise: A Study of the Life and Art of Paul Gauguin. New York, 1937, pp. 159–60, ill. opp. p. 118, calls it "The Crimson-flowered Breasts" and dates it 1892.

    R. H. Wilenski. Modern French Painters. New York, [1940], pp. 133, 138, pl. 45A, considers this and "Three Tahitian Women" more European than earlier Tahitian works.

    Raymond Cogniat. Gauguin. Paris, 1947, pl. 105, dates it 1889.

    Frank Elgar. Gauguin. Paris, 1949, unpaginated, no. 14, pl. 14.

    Jean Leymarie. Gauguin. Exh. cat., Musée de l'Orangerie. Paris, 1949, pp. 64–65, no. 54, pl. XXI.

    Jean Leymarie. "Musée de l'Orangerie: Exposition Gauguin." Musées de France (June 1949), pp. 111–12, ill.

    Georg Schmidt. Paul Gauguin zum 100. Geburtsjahr. Exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Basel. Basel?, [1949], pp. 42, no. 61, pl. 28, calls it "Die roten Blüten/Les seins aux fleurs rouges" and includes it with works painted during Gauguin's second sojourn in Tahiti.

    Bernard Dorival. "Sources of the Art of Gauguin from Java, Egypt and Ancient Greece." Burlington Magazine 93 (April 1951), p. 121, notes that the women's stances are based on a Javanese relief at Borobudur, a photograph of which was found among the artist's possessions.

    Henri Dorra. "Ia Orana Maria." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 10 (May 1952), pp. 257–58, ill.

    Fritz Novotny. Die Grossen Französischen Impressionisten, Ihre Vorlaüfer Und Ihre Nachfolge

    . Vienna, 1952, p. 60, no. 37, ill. (color).

    Paul Gauguin. Carnet de Tahiti. facsimile of Gauguin's Carnet de Tahiti. Paris, 1954, vol. 1, p. 62, note for p. 39, notes that his student Mme Thirion, in an unpublished thesis, established that Gauguin took his inspiration for this picture from a drawing by H. Gray, "La marchande de pommes," illustrated in the Courrier français, 1884, no. 30.

    Lawrence Hanson and Elisabeth Hanson. Noble Savage: The Life of Paul Gauguin. New York, 1954, pp. 250, 263, ill., identify the woman on the left as Pahura, one of Gauguin's native "wives".

    Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), pp. 7, 54, ill., finds that this painting has "an exotic beauty recalling the poems of Baudelaire".

    Herbert Read. "Gauguin: Return to Symbolism." Art News Annual 25 (November 1955), pp. 123, 144, ill. (color).

    Georges Wildenstein. "L'idéologie et l'esthetique dans deux tableaux—clés de Gauguin." Gazette des beaux-arts 47 (1956), pp. 137, 157, fig. 25, finds the same sitters and poses in several other paintings.

    Robert J. Goldwater. Paul Gauguin. 1st ed. [concise ed. 1983]. New York, [1957], pp. 152–53, ill. (color).

    Henri Perruchot. Gauguin, Tahiti. Paris, 1958, unpaginated, colorpl. 11.

    John Richardson. "Gauguin at Chicago and New York." Burlington Magazine 101 (May 1959), p. 191.

    Claus Virch and Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. in Gauguin: Paintings, Drawings, Prints, Sculpture. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago, 1959, p. 56, no. 64, ill., note that the Javanese figures at Borobudur were the inspiration for these figures as well as those that appeared in "Faa Iheihe" of 1898 (W 569; Courtauld Institute, London) and "Rupe Rupe" (W585; Pushkin Museum, Moscow); remark that the figure on the left is also shown in a wooden sculpture, in a monotype in a manuscript, and in a woodcut used as the masthead for an issue of "La Sourire".

    Bernard Dorival in Gauguin. Paris, 1961, pp. 60, 124, 181, ill., reproduces a color image of "La marchande de pommes" by M. Gray, which appeared on the cover of two issues of the "Courrier français" in 1884 and 1885, and remarks that Mme Thirion had shown that the illustration had a direct influence on the figure on the left in this picture.

    Gauguin. Paris, 1961, pp. 60, 254, ill.

    Lawrence Hanson and Elisabeth Hanson. The Seekers: Gauguin, van Gogh, Cézanne. New York, 1963, pp. 284–85.

    Georges Wildenstein. Gauguin. 1, French ed. [English ed. 1965]. Paris, 1964, p. 246, no. 583, ill., calls it "Les Seins aux fleurs rouge"; catalogues it in detail, citing several drawings and paintings with figures similar to those represented here.

    Raymond Charmet. Gauguin. [Verviers, Belgium], 1965, pp. 80, 87, ill. p. 53.

    Patrick O'Reilly. Catalogue du Musée Gauguin, Papeari, Tahiti. Paris, 1965, p. 71, illustrates a copy of this painting given to the museum by Mrs. Chester Dale.

    Phoebe Pool. Gauguin. [London], 1966, colorpl. XII, suggests that it was probably of such figures that Gauguin wrote to Strindberg,"The Eve I have painted—she and she alone—can remain naturally naked before us. Yours, in this simple state, could not move without a feeling of shame".

    Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. "XIX–XX Centuries." French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 3, New York, 1967, pp. 176–78, ill.

    Alfred Werner. Paul Gauguin. New York, 1967, pp. 44–45, no. 16, ill., calls it "Two Tahitian Women (Femmes aux Mangos)" and erroneously dates it 1889; contrasts Gauguin's standards of beauty with those of other nineteenth-century French artists.

    Françoise Cachin. Gauguin. Paris, 1968, pp. 301–3, 349 n. 24, ill.

    Margaretta M. Salinger. "Windows Open to Nature." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27 (Summer 1968), unpaginated, ill.

    Patrik Reuterswärd, et al. Gauguin i Söderhavet [Gauguin in the South Sea Islands]. Exh. cat., Etnografiska Museet and Nationalmuseum. Stockholm, 1970, p. 95, no. 54, fig. 75.

    Wayne Andersen with the assistance of Barbara Klein in Gauguin's Paradise Lost. New York, 1971, p. 247.

    Linda Nochlin. "Eroticism and Female Imagery in Nineteenth-Century Art." Woman as Sex Object: Studes in Erotic Art, 1730–1970. New York, 1972, pp. 8–9, 11, ill. (color detail).

    G. M. Sugana. L'opera completa di Gauguin. 2nd ed. [1st ed., 1969; Engl. ed, 1973]. Milan, 1972, p. 112, no. 399, ill. p. 110, colorpl. IL.

    Kuno Mittelstädt. Paul Gauguin. Berlin, 1973, unpaginated, no. 25, ill., calls it "Mädchen mit Mangoblüten".

    Carl R. Baldwin The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Impressionist Epoch. [New York], 1974, p. 21.

    100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum [in Russian]. Exh. cat., State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad. Moscow, 1975, pp. 195–97, no. 73, ill. (color), remarks that Gauguin's emphasis with these Maori women is their beauty, where usually he concentrates on their strength.

    Robert Goldwater. Paul Gauguin. concise ed. [lst ed. 1957]. New York, 1983, p. 120, ill. (color).

    Patrik Reuterswärd. "Gauguin och den tahitiska kvinnan." Konsthistorisk tidskrift (1984), pp. 82–84, ill., uses it as an example of the more mature and realistic approach that followed Gauguin's suicide attempt of New Year's Eve, 1897.

    Yann le Pichon. Gauguin: Life, Art, Inspiration. New York, 1987, pp. 198–99, no. 375, ill. (color), reproduces a photograph of two Tahitian women in clothing and poses similar to those in this painting.

    Gary Tinterow et al. "Modern Europe." The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 8, New York, 1987, pp. 5, 76, ill. (color), identify the woman to the left as Gauguin's mistress Pahura; remark that the pose of the woman on the right appears in several works Gauguin painted between 1896 and 1899, and note that the position of her hands derives from carvings on the Javanese temple of Borobudur.

    Richard Brettell in The Art of Paul Gauguin. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1988, pp. 253, 424–25, no. 230, ill. (color), discusses various possible sources for the two figures; relates two charcoal drawings to the heads of the figures, one whose whereabouts is unknown (ill. p. 425) and one in a private collection (cat. no. 124); mentions that the figure on the left appears in a carving from about 1892 (Hirshhorn Museum, Washington); adds that since in traditional Polynesian society men and women were forbidden to eat together, the picture may be interpreted as a "private viewing of a female realm".

    Pierre Daix. Paul Gauguin. [Paris], 1989, pp. 304, 306–7, ill., compares its feeling to that of Giorgione's "Concert champêtre".

    Roseline Bacou in Gauguin: Actes du colloque Gauguin. Paris, 1991, pp. 17–18, 48 n. 59, notes that in September 1900 Fayet purchased from Monfried two paintings by Gauguin, this picture and "Three Tahitians".

    Anna G. Barskaya and Albert G. Kostenevich. The Hermitage Catalogue of Western European Painting: French Painting, Mid-Nineteenth to Twentienth [sic] Centuries. Florence, 1991, pp. 171–72, remark that Gauguin repeated the gesture of the woman on the right in several other works, including three in the Hermitage.

    Joseph J. Rishel in Masterpieces of Impressionism & Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 1991, p. 194 n. 7.

    Pierre-Francis Schneeberger. Gauguin – Tahiti. Paris, 1991, pp. 52, 56, ill. (color).

    Peter Brooks. "Gauguin's Tahitian Body." The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History. New York, 1992, p. 343, ill.

    Ingo F. Walther. Paul Gauguin, 1848–1903: The Primitive Sophisticate. Cologne, 1993, pp. 80–81, 85.

    Impressionist and Modern Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, Part I. Sotheby's, New York. November 8, 1994, unpaginated, under no. 13, relates it to a drawing titled "Tahitiennes" of circa 1891–93.

    Paul Gauguin e l'avanguardia russa. Exh. cat.Florence, 1995, pp. 120, 122, 124, 126.

    Asya Kantor-Gukovskaya in Paul Gauguin, Mysterious Affinities. English ed. (Russian ed. 1995). Bournemouth, 1995, pp. 63, 150.

    David Sweetman. Paul Gauguin: A Complete Life. London, 1995, pp. 474–75, 478.

    Anna Maria Damigella. Paul Gauguin, La vita e l'opera. Milan, 1997, pp. 30, 207, 242–43, ill. (color).

    Paul Gauguin, Tahiti. Exh. cat., Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Stuttgart, 1998, pp. 76–77, 81, 168, no. 55, ill. (color), discusses the painting in the context of Gauguin's work of the second period in Tahiti, beginning in 1895; remarks on the eerie silence in these melancholy later paintings and calls the blossoms or fruit in the bowl a sacrifice.

    Michael Bockemühl in Paul Gauguin: Das verlorene Paradies. Exh. cat., Museum Folkwang, Essen. Cologne, 1998, pp. 113, 115, 323, no. 49, ill. (color).

    Elizabeth C. Childs in Antimodernism and Artistic Experience: Policing the Boundaries of Modernity. Toronto, 2001, pp. 57–58, 68 nn. 39–40, fig. 3.7.

    Charlotte Hale in Colta Ives and Susan Alyson Stein. The Lure of the Exotic: Gauguin in New York Collections. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2002, p. 189.

    Colta Ives in Colta Ives and Susan Alyson Stein. The Lure of the Exotic: Gauguin in New York Collections. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2002, p. 224, no. 105, ill. p. 131 (color).

    Susan Alyson Stein in Colta Ives and Susan Alyson Stein. The Lure of the Exotic: Gauguin in New York Collections. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2002, pp. 171, 229 n. 43, p. 230, fig. 66 (installation photo).

    Paule Laudon. Tahiti—Gauguin: Mythe et vérités. Paris, 2003, pp. 119–20, ill. (color).

    George T. M. Shackelford in George T. M. Shackelford and Claire Frèches-Thory. Gauguin Tahiti. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. Boston, 2004, pp. 197–200, 356, no. 156, ill. (color).

    Geneviève Lacambre in Il Simbolismo da Moreau a Gauguin a Klimt. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti. Ferrara, 2007, p. 120.

    Abigail Solomon-Godeau in Paul Gauguin: Artist of Myth and Dream. Exh. cat., Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome. Milan, 2007, p. 77.

    Susan Alyson Stein in Masterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 167, 251–52, no. 155, ill. (color and black and white).

    Christine I. Oaklander. "Jonathan Sturges, W. H. Osborn, and William Church Osborn: A Chapter in American Art Patronage." Metropolitan Museum Journal 43 (2008), pp. 188–89, 191, fig. 25 (color).

    Joseph J. Rishel in Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection. 4th rev. ed. [1st ed., 1989]. New York, 2009, p. 189 n. 7.

    Robins. "'Manet and the Post-Impressionists': a checklist of exhibits." Burlington Magazine (2010), p. 786.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History