Art of work

Essay by Chianh December 2014

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Art of the Modern Era Candidate number: 105515

Slide 1: Discuss the 'Primitivism' of Image B

Paul Gauguin, Where do we come from - What are we- Where are we going, 1897, oil on canvas, 139.1 x 374.6 cm

'Primitivism' has had a number of different but related expressions that often blend confusingly, but in the field of history of art, "primitivism has had as it proponent 19th- and 20th-century artists, all of whom argued (on different basis's and in different ways) the superiority of a simple life close to nature and culture, then, primitivism as a modernist art" (Jean-François Staszak, 2004). And "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?" can be seen as a great example of primitivism in the 19th century.[1: Jean-François Staszak , "PRIMITIVISM AND THE OTHER History of Art and Cultural Geography", GeoJournal, 2004, 4, pp.


The painting "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?" was made by Paul Gauguin in 1897. It was produced with oil on canvas. While most of Gauguin's primitivism contemporaries were painting Eastern oriental cultures, Gauguin chose Tahiti as the base for most of his work. Rather than glorifying oriental cultures, he chose to show the commonplace reality and the daily activities in these 'primitive' societies.

Firstly, the title of the painting is the series of questions, "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?" which hints deeply at its primitive association. The asking of those 'primitive' questions in an industrialized society should not be overlooked. It showed that modern society, in its quest for material wealth and production, had lost the larger meaning of life, and attempted to ask them again through...