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Are you jealous?

Paul Gauguin • Painting, 1892, 66.2×89.3 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Landscape, Nude
Style of art: Cloisonism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1892
Size: 66.2×89.3 cm
Content 18+
Artwork in selections: 62 selections
Audio guide

Description of the artwork «Are you jealous?»

Aha Oe Feii? (Are you jealous?) is one of Paul Gauguin’s most famous works of his first Tahitian period. It can be considered the most accurate and complete implementation of the artist’s dream of a tropical paradise. Swarthy nude bodies of native Tahitian women under the hot sun imbuing the picture with bliss and lazy peace, an idyllic fusion of man and pristine nature. Gauguin himself highly appreciated this painting. The same year, when it was created, the artist wrote a letter to his friend, where he shared his joy, “Recently I painted a gorgeous nude: two women on the beach. I think this is the best of what I've made so far.”

Later, in his Tahitian diary Noa Noa, Gauguin told how the idea to paint this picture had occurred to him: “On the shore two sisters are lying after bathing, in the graceful poses of resting animals; they speak of yesterday’s love and tomorrow’s conquests. The recollection causes them to quarrel, ‘What? Are you jealous?’ ”

Gauguin titled the painting with the last phrase in Tahitian language in the lower left corner of the canvas. The mood of the picture and the artist’s comments evoke a sense of Pacific paradise in which sexual relations and even quarrels about them are playful and harmless. According to Canadian Professor Peter Toohey, “this jealousy is not the product of a threat to an exclusive sexual relationship or jilted love affair – it is the result of one of the sisters having enjoyed more sex than the other the night before”.

However, some art critics believe that Gauguin invented the romantic story about the overheard conversation after some time. According to one of the versions, the artist painted the sitting woman from a similar figure on the frieze of the Dionysus Theater in Athens. And the flowers on the girl’s head are reminiscent of an ancient laurel wreath. Probably, he added the second figure afterwards, and then he invented a beautiful legend about the two sisters.

Author: Evgeniya Sidelnikova