Susan Burns, 53, a woman from Arlington recently attacked Paul Gauguin’s painting “Two Tahitian women” in the national gallery of Art trying to rip it from the wall. She had a problem with the painting apparently because she thought Gauguin was evil, his paintings of nude women would have an adverse impact on the children. Here is a thumbnail of the painting, which shows two women in full/partial frontal nudity:
The interesting thing about the painting is the soft golden hues used in the treatment of light. Gauguin was a post-impressionist who preferred to combine the elements of impressionism with primitivism in his Tahitian –themed paintings. The impressionists admirably used light to highlight the human form, especially in their nudes. Here the woman in the front has her bosom fully exposed; the other woman has only a single breast uncovered. The question is whether the painter made the painting deliberately erotic, in the way the viewer’s eyes are directed to the breasts. There is no doubt that the viewer’s eyes are not directed to her eyes nor face which is in shadow. The red flowers held by the woman just below the breasts highlight the yellow hues used in the treatment of the breasts and the arms leaving no doubt about where Gauguin is directing attention to.
Yet I do not see any deliberate attempt towards eroticism. It is the soft shadows on the woman’s breasts that make for their beauty, capturing the essence of femininity in an aesthetically pleasing use of light and shadow which is the mainstay of the impressionistic art.
Incidentally I have seen in some reproductions of the painting the use of the title “Two Tahitian women with mango blossoms” .I do not know whether the mango blossoms thing was there in the original painting. Whether or not they were there, the flowers are not certainly mango blossoms, which are not red or pink in color and have different shapes.