Gauguin and Sāmoa
Paul Gauguin was a French painter, printmaker, and sculptor who worked in Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands for over a decade between 1891 and 1903.
He constructed a persona of himself as a ‘noble savage’ for the purpose of asserting his own claims to invention and novelty within the evolving modernism of the French art of his time.
Although Gauguin never set foot in Sāmoa, Kihara uses uncovered archival evidence that demonstrates how he based several of his major paintings on photographs of people and places in Sāmoa. Kihara argues that Sacred Waters is “inspired by” a photograph taken in Sāmoa in 1887. Similarly, some of Thomas Andrew’s photographs taken in Sāmoa are in Gauguin’s Journal Noa Noa. The silhouette of the back of the man in Gauguin’s painting Three Tahitians was directly lifted from another Andrew photograph.