Still Life with Parrots

Paul Gauguin • Painting, 1902, 62×76 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Still life
Style of art: Post-Impressionism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1902
Size: 62×76 cm
Artwork in selections: 23 selections
Audio guide

Description of the artwork «Still Life with Parrots»

Tired of the too "civilized" Tahiti, in 1901 Paul Gauguin moved to the Marquesas Islands. Here, on the island of Hiva Oa, he built a large house, decorated it with wood carvings and married a local girl. The artist didn’t abandon painting, but also worked as a journalist and wrote stories. However, the last two years of Gauguin's life cannot be called unclouded. Every year he suffered more and more from many diseases, including leprosy and syphilis. And the echoes of these torments can be traced in his last works. "Still Life with Parrots" is not an exception.

According to Gauguin, he painted still lifes when he felt tired. And very often he painted them from memory or imagination, without a need to make some composition out of the objects. Instead of the carcasses of ducks or pheasants, familiar to the European viewer, here on the table there are three dead parrots, usually perceived as "fancy" birds and pets. On tropical islands, the parrot is considered to be a game bird. Moreover, in combination with a ceramic statuette of the Tahitian goddess Hina in the background (made by Gauguin himself), these birds resemble sacrifice. In general, the picture is filled with a rather gloomy symbolism. The bright plumage of the parrots grabs the attention first, but quite quickly comes the realization that the birds are dead. And the fact that the objects are arranged on a travelling trunk covered with a tablecloth only enhances the image of the frailty of all existence and living beings’ fleeting life on earth.

In the early twentieth century, several years after Gauguin's death, the famous Russian collector Ivan Morozov purchased some of the artist's canvases, including "Still Life with Parrots". For few years the painting, among other masterpieces, adorned the wall of the Morozov's mansion, enrapturing Russian avant-garde artists. However, in 1918 the Morozov collection was nationalized, and 30 years later it was divided between the Hermitage and the Pushkin Museum.