Paul Gauguin, Arearea (also know as Joyeousness)
Gauguin's picture, which he finished in 1892, about ten years before he died, is not a pre-camera snapshot of a South Sea island paradise. It's an idealization. He made it up. And what went into it was a series of decisions about colour and materials. Each one is a jump. Partly into the unknown, partly not - he has his experience of his own past work and of art by other people that he's looked at to go on. But a certain positive element of the unknown is the issue here. The strength of the painting, its originality, is not exotic subject matter but the boldness of Gauguin's approach, the spontaneity of his moves. He doesn't just fill in shapes. He doesn't get inspired colour combinations from a colour - matching chart. He improvises colour-shapes and the relationships between them, and that improvisatory mode is the basis of the personality of the painting. This personality is different to what we usually mean by the word. For example, the woman in the painting is a cartoon more or less. She's not really of much interest. But the painting as a whole is intense: she's a schematic element within that. That tension of harmonized and contrasted colour balances is both powerful and delicate. At the time it seemed jarring to Gauguin's audience. It didn't seem like art at all. But we've come to see this kind of colour as a way of making beauty in art and we appreciate Gauguin for that. So it's the beauty of the painting as a whole that makes the woman beautiful and not the other way around.
"Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? " is one of Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings.