When Gauguin (1848-1903) set off for Tahiti, he hoped to find a wild, primitive landscape, synonymous with liberty. He created this painting during his first stay there (1891-1893).
He twice depicted Teha'amana, the first of his three teenage wives, sat on a sandbank along a lagoon. To the left, she is dressed in traditional Tahitian costume, and gives the painting a slight effect of depth, by the bridge of her stretched leg. To the right, covered by a missionary robe, she appears to be straight in line with the space of the canvas. By the attitude and faces, marked with melancholy, the painter tries to communicate the idea that he languished in the tropics.
The nature painted by Gauguin is synthetic, formed of flattened effects of pure colors. His paintings support pictorial symbolism.