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Mata Mua (In Olden Times)

Paul Gauguin1892

Museo Thyssen - Bornemisza

Museo Thyssen - Bornemisza

In an idyllic landscape enclosed by mountains, a group of women worship Hina, goddess of the moon. In the foreground, a girl plays the flute. To the left, separated by the trunk of a tall tree that splits the composition in two like a hinge, another group dances round the idol. Gauguin left for Tahiti in 1891, hoping to find artistic inspiration among primitive peoples whose development had been untouched by Western civilisation. However, all he encountered were the vestiges of a glorious past, already doomed to extinction. Mata Mua (In Olden Times) is a hymn to the natural lifestyle Gauguin so fervently sought. Painted in bright, flat colours, and rejecting any claim to naturalism, it is also an elegy for a lost Golden Age.

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