Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
Artist Paul Gauguin
Year 1897-1898
Medium Oil on canvas
Location Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Dimensions 54.8 in × 147.5 in
139.1 cm × 374.6 cm
Famous Paintings by Paul Gauguin
Spirit of the Dead Watching, 1892
Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, 1897-1898
The Yellow Christ, 1889
The Green Christ, 1889
Tahitian Women on the Beach, 1891
Vision After the Sermon, 1888
Complete Works

The Where Do We Come From piece is one created by the French artist, Gauguin, and in the top left corner, he inscribed the title in his native French language, which reads: D’où Venons Nous / Que Sommes Nous / Où Allons Nous. The painting was designed in Tahiti and today sits in Boston, MA, at the Museum of Fine Arts.

The Backstory

The picture was designed to be read from right to left. As Gauguin claimed he would commit suicide after the work was completed (he had tried in the past), it was a depiction of what he was going to do. The three major figures in the work are represented by the three questions in the title.

The three women depict the existence in our lives, from childhood, to middle age, to adulthood, and the many changes that we go through during the course of our lives. The blue background in the painting is supposedly what Gauguin has described as the beyond.

The Design

The painting shows thick brush strokes and vivid colors throughout and is supposed to depict an expressionist approach (evident in the different colors and sizes of the strokes used). Cubism as well as fauvism were emerging during the period that the work was depicted, and many thought that it was a step in this direction as well, with the unique blends and different approaches used in the art piece.

With a unique style all his own, Gauguin created many pieces for the art world. This depiction is one that displays his outlook on life, how he viewed life and what was to happen in death and the final days of our lives and beyond.

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