Since the beginning of the 1930's, we have known who inspired Gauguin for this painting: Tohotaua, the wife of his cook. Dressed in a white lavalava, a calico cloth slung around the waist, Tohotaua sits on a chair richly decorated with carvings, in her right hand a white feather fan. As such, for Gauguin she embodied the Marquesan people. Gauguin changed very little from the photographic model on which the painting was based. He preserved the pose the woman struck for the photograph, slightly altering the position of her head, neutralizing the background and stylizing the chair in favor of an idealization of the depiction. The cockade of the white feather fan shows the French national colors of blue, white and red, a reference to the ‘Grand Nation’ often appearing in his works: France had annexed Tahiti and the Marquesas in 1880, something for which Gauguin often criticized his country of birth. In transforming the photograph into a painting, Gauguin concentrated on what he felt was essential in the motif. He reduced the narrative details and spatial depiction to give the figure depicted a monumental simplicity and magnitude. In spite of a considerable increase in price for Gauguin's works after his death in 1903, Karl Ernst Osthaus succeeded in acquiring The girl with a Fan, together with the The Kelp Gatherers of 1889, for the Folkwang in Hagen in 1904.


  • Title: Jeune fille à l'éventail (The Girl with a Fan)
  • Creator: Paul Gauguin
  • Date: 1902
  • Provenance: Acquired in 1904 for the Museum Folkwang, Hagen, since 1922 Essen
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: © Museum Folkwang
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Höhe: 91.9 cm
  • Collection: Painting, Sculpture, Media Art
  • Breite: 72.9 cm

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