About This Artwork

Paul Gauguin
French, 1848-1903

Merahi metua no Tehamana (Tehamana Has Many Parents or The Ancestors of Tehamana), 1893

Oil on jute canvas
75 x 53 cm (29 1/2 x 20 7/8 in.)
Signed lower center: P. Gauguin. / 93
Inscribed lower left: MERAHI METUA NO / TEHAMANA

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Deering McCormick, 1980.613

Paul Gauguin traveled to rural France and then abroad in search of inspiration for his art. His quest took the former stockbroker to the French regions of Brittany and Provence, to Panama and Martinique, and finally to Tahiti and the Marquesas in the South Pacific. This stately portrait of Gauguin’s young Tahitian vahine (lover), Tehamana, is perhaps a farewell, since it was painted shortly before the artist left the island, returning to France for two years. Elaborately dressed, her hair decorated with flowers, Tehamana is seated in front of a mysterious painted background reminiscent of a frieze on the wall of an ancient palace or temple. Two ripe mangoes—perhaps an offering or symbol of fertility—rest beside her hip. She points a fan, an emblem of beauty, toward the similarly frontal figure of a goddess, who also wears a red flower in her hair. The fan, flowers, fruit, and even Tehamana’s glance suggest not only the strong, enigmatic bond between these two figures but also the connections between the present and the past, the corporeal and the spiritual, and the living and the dead.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Paris, Galeries Durand-Ruel, Exposition Paul Gauguin, November 1893, cat. 33.

Béziers, Société des Beaux-Arts, 1901, cat. 53.

Paris, Galerie L. Dru, Exposition retrospective de P. Gauguin (1848–1903); peintures, bois, céramiques, gravures, dessins, April 16–May 11, 1923, cat. 22.

Paris, Le Portique, Gauguin, 1931, cat. 1.

Chicago, Quest Art Galleries, French Nineteenth Century Paintings, May 3–15, 1937, cat. 11 (ill.)

New York, Jacques Seligmann Galleries, February 1937.

New York, Wildenstein and Co., Inc., Great Portraits from Impressionism to Modernism, March 1–29, 1938, cat. 14.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Great French Paintings: An Exhibition in Memory of Chauncey McCormick, January 20–February 20, 1955, cat. 19 (ill.).

The Art Institute of Chicago, Gauguin, Paintings, Drawings, Prints, Sculpture, February 12–March 29, 1959, cat. 51 (ill.); traveled to New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, April 21–May 31, 1959.

Albi, France, Musée Toulouse-Lauctrec, Trésors impressionnistes du Musée de Chicago, June 27–August 31, 1980, cat. 31 (ill.).

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Primitivism in 20th Century Art, September 5, 1984-January 15, 1985, no cat. no. (ill.).

Washington, D. C., National Gallery of Art, The Art of Paul Gauguin, May 1–July 31, 1988, cat. 158 (ill.), traveled to The Art Institute of Chicago, September 17–December 11, 1988; and Paris, Grand Palais, January 10–April 24, 1989.

Moscow, The Pushkin Museum, Gauguin in Russia, May-June, 1989, cat. 30 (ill.), traveled to Leningrad, The Hermitage, July-October 1989.

Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Paul Gauguin-Tahiti, February 7-June 1, 1998, cat. 44 (ill.).

The Art Institute of Chicago, Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South, September 22, 2001-January 13, 2002, cat. 141 (ill.), traveled to The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, February 9-June 6, 2002.

Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Gauguin: Tahiti, September 30, 2003-January 19, 2004, cat. 99 (ill.), traveled to Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, February 29, 2004-June 20, 2004.

Fort Worth, Tex., Kimbell Museum of Art, The Impressionists: Master Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago, June 29–November 2, 2008, cat. 70 (ill.).

Seattle, Seattle Art Museum, Gauguin Polynesia February 9- April 29, 2012. Copenhagen, NY Carlsberg Glyptotek, September 24- December 31, 2011. fig. 205.

Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist, June 25-Sept. 10. 2017; Paris, Musée d’Orsay, Oct. 9, 2017-Jan. 1, 2018.

Publication History

Jean de Rotonchamp, Paul Gauguin 1848–1903 (Paris, 1906), p. 120, no. 33, p. 135, no. 32.

Charles Morice, Paul Gauguin (Paris, 1920), p. 148 (ill. opp.).

Robert Rey, Gauguin, Maîtres de l’art moderne (Paris, 1923), pl. 23.

Robert Rey, Gauguin, trans. F. C. de Sumichrast (London, 1924), pl. 28.

Gustave Kahn, “Paul Gauguin,” L’Art et les artistes 12, 60 (October 1925), p. 56 (ill.).

Jean de Rotonchamp, Paul Gauguin 1848–1903 (Paris, 1925), p. 137.

Arsène Alexandre, Paul Gauguin; Sa vie et le sens de son oeuvre (Paris, 1930), p. 219 (ill.).

Charles Kunstler, Gauguin, peintre maudit, Anciens et Modernes (Paris, 1934), p. 159.

R. G. Wilenski, French Painting (Boston, 1931), 2nd ed. 1936, p. 290.

S. Rocheblave, La Peinture française au XIXe siécle (Paris, 1936), pl. 90.

“‘Tehura,’ A New Gauguin for America,” Vogue 89 (February 15, 1937), pp. 54, (ill.) 55.

John Rewald, Gauguin (Paris, 1939), p. 21, pl. 152.

Antony de Witt, Paul Gauguin (Milan, 1945), pl. 23.

Hans Graber, Paul Gauguin: Nach eigenen und fremden Zeugnissen (Basel, 1946), p. 510, ill.

Herbert Lee van Dovski, Paul Gauguin oder die Flucht vor der Zivilisation (Olten and Bern, 1948), p. 350, no. 300.

Maurice Malingue, Gauguin: Le Peintures et son oeuvre (Paris, 1948), fig. 202.

Georges Wildenstein, “L’Idéologie et l’estétique dans deux tableaux-clés de Gauguin,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 47, per. 6 (January–April 1956), pp. 143, 162, fig. 9.

“Gauguin,” The Art Institute of Chicago Quarterly 53, 1 (February 1959), p. 4 (ill.).

Georges Wildenstein, Gauguin (Paris, 1964), no. 497 (ill.).

Paul Gauguin, Noa Noa (Paris, 1966), p. 34 (ill.).

Bengt Danielsson, “Gauguin’s Tahitian Titles,” Burlington Magazine 9, 760 (April 1967), p. 231.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Annual Report 1969–1970 (Chicago, 1970), p. 6.

G. M. Sugana, L’opera completa di Gauguin (Milan, 1972), no 322 (ill.).

Herbert Lee van Dovski, Die Wahreit über Gauguin, mit Vielen, zum Teil farbigen Abbildungen und einem ‘Katalog der Gemälde’ (Darmstadt, 1973), no. 300, (ill.) 175.

James N. Wood and Katherine C. Lee, Master Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, 1988), p. 71 (ill.).

Frances S. Connelly, “Primitivism of Philipp Otto Runge,” Art Journal 32, 2 (1993), p. 38, fig. 7.

Douglas Druick and Peter Zegers, Paul Gauguin: Pages From the Pacific (Chicago and Auckland, 1995), p. 23, fig. 43.

Peggy Vance, Gauguin (London, 1991), pp. 120-1 (ill.), 144.

June Hargrove, “Woman with a Fan: Paul Gauguin’s Heavenly Vairaumati–A Parable of Immortality,” The Art Bulletin 88, 3 (September 2006), p. 557, fig. 3.

The Age of Impressionism at the Art Institute of Chicago (New Haven and London, 2008), cat. 70, pp. 146–47 (ill.).

Suzanne Greub, Gauguin Polynesia, Exh. cat (Seattle Art Museum, 2012), p. 221, p. 352-353. fig. 205.

Gloria Groom, ed. Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist, exh. cat. (Art Institute of Chicago/ Yale University Press, 2017). p. 16, 58, 70n9, 235, 238, 242-243, 252, 286, 331, cat. 183.

Claire Bernardi and Ophélie Ferlier-Bouat, Guaguin: L’alchimiste, exh. cat. (Musée d’Osay/ Réunion des muséea nationaux-Grand Palais/ Graphicom, 2017), p.192-193 , 305, cat. 196.

Ownership History

Gauguin Sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, February 18, 1895, lot 32; bought in for 300 francs; given by the artist to Daniel de Monfreid (died 1929), Paris; by descent to Mme Daniel de Monfreid, Paris; by descent to her daughter, Mme Huc de Monfreid; sold to Jacques Seligmann, Paris and New York, 1937 [see New York 1937 and Vogue 1937]. Stephen C. Clark, New York by 1938 [see Rewald 1938]. Mr. and Mrs. Chauncey McCormick, Chicago by 1955 [see Chicago 1955]; by descent to Mr. Charles Deering McCormick; on extended loan to the Art Institute, 1970; given to the Art Institute, 1980.

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