L’Île aux Fleurs: Martinique and the work of Paul Gauguin

Poindexter, Remi
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University of Delaware
Paul Gauguin is largely known for his work in Brittany and Tahiti, however, in 1887, the artist travelled to Latin America where he spent six months in the French Caribbean island of Martinique. While on the island, he created a large number of paintings, many of which depict manual labor. In these scenes, Gauguin presents labor and leisure not as separate entities, but as existing together as one. Gauguin’s figures are fragmented and appear to be experiencing their own individual notions of time and appear to be carrying out labor and leisure simultaneously. This view is a stark contrast to the rational and synchronized concept of time found in industrialized Europe, in which set periods of work and rest dictated the modern workplace. Gauguin’s paintings of rural labor in Martinique follow the tradition of landscape painting in nineteenth century France. Influenced by depictions of peasants by Pissarro and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Gauguin’s paints rural life as a harmonious experience between work, rest, man, and nature.