Gauguin Parau na te Varua ino

Gauguin’s eve or femme fatale? Parau na te Varua ino or Words of the Devil 1892

Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Those of you who follow this blog will know that the second venue for the Gauguin exhibition is the National Gallery of Art in Washington. I met some of my NGA colleagues a few days ago, to walk round the exhibition and talk through how the show will look there, once all the works of art arrive in the US next February. The NGA have a fantastic collection of Gauguin works of art (the famous Breton clogs for example…) many of which are in our exhibition, including this mysterious painting Parau na te Varua ino (‘Words of the Devil’). It is hanging in Gallery 7 called ‘The Eternal Feminine’. Gauguin was fascinated by the figure of Eve, often interpreted in Western art as a Biblical femme fatale. Here she is shown as a young Tahitian woman, who seems to be covering herself ‘in shame’, a reference perhaps to the moment when Adam and Eve, after eating from the Tree of Knowledge, become aware that they are naked and hide from God (Book of Genesis). Mind you, that’s just one interpretation of this painting. Do you have another? Let me know! 

Comments

Annee Leveson-Gower

It concerns me,especially as so many of Tate's curators are women, that the objectification of women in art,which is particularly pointed in Gaugin's work, passes without comment.
Gaugin saw men as human and women as other. He's clearly a man of his class and time but surely we can't be blind to that terrible prejudice.

It is always a shame when we fail to point out ignorance.

Lilian Maria Pragana

The figure from behind catch attention immediatelly,afterwards the suite Eve desnude and shy, still not worried with the red wavwe from behind,LOve Gauguin and this dark Eve painture is fantastic, twice.LMP

Jane Burke

I think the bold stares of both the snake and the onlooker (Adam?) in the background are challenging - the snake seems to have equal status with the humans and to be neither evil nor sneaky. Eve has a confident, sly, sidelong look - I think this Eve is a match for the devil and is only pretending to be deceived. JB.

Peter Knight

I found it hard to connect with the imagery of Gauguin, the figures in the background are disturbing, plus his progression in 8 years of his works is rapid devitation! What I find of interest is the person that is Gauguin! What drove him from profession to profession, and was his art an expression contentment or discomtentmemt? I supose that is the question which gave me the greatest exercise in thought. His life became,from the outside, so enriched yet was happy? Of course the next questions of what is happiness, but that is to existential for a Sunday! My partner loved the art and life of Gauguin and totally connected to the works. It has been a real area of discussion ever since.