Overview

Lured to Tahiti in 1891 by reports of its unspoiled culture, Gauguin was disappointed by its civilized capital and moved to the countryside, where he found an approximation of the tropical paradise he had expected. The Tahiti of his depictions was derived from native folklore supplemented by material culled from books written by earlier European visitors and overlaid with allusions to western culture. The pose of the standing nude, for instance, is derived from a medieval statue of the biblical Eve and more distantly from the Venus Pudica of classical sculpture. The artist placed this rich combination of references to original sin, the loss of virginity, and occidental standards of beauty and art within the context of his Tahitian mythology and primitive, non–European aesthetics.

The meaning of the title Parau na te Varua ino is unclear. The phrase varua ino, evil spirit or devil, refers to the masked kneeling figure and parau means words, suggesting the interpretation "Words of the Devil." The meaning of many of Gauguin's Tahitian paintings remains elusive. There is little likelihood that Gauguin's original audience would have been able to interpret the Tahitian legends that Gauguin carefully inscribed on most of the 66 paintings he took back to Paris in 1892.

Inscription

lower left: P Gauguin 92 / Parau na te Varua ino

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

(Gauguin sale, Paris, 18 February 1895, no. 10, bought in). (Ambroise Vollard [1867-1939], Paris); sold on 30 May 1906, for 4000 francs, to Alexandre Berthier, 4th Prince de Wagram (1883-1918); [1] returned possibly due to non-settlement of bill to Vollard, stock no. 5453, by 1913; [2] Millet, Paris. Phileas Pluckett, Manchester. Paul Guillaume [1891-1934], Paris; sold 1930 to Marie N. Harriman [1903-1970] and W. Averell Harriman [1891-1986], New York;[2] the W. Averell Harriman Foundation, New York; gift 1972 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1893
Exposition d'Oeuvres récentes de Paul Gauguin, Galeries Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1893, no. 10, as Parua no Varua Ino (Paroles du Diablo)
1894
La Première Exposition à Bruxelles, La Libre Esthétique, Brussels, 1894, no. 192, as Paroles du diable "Parau nate Vanua ino"
1910
Manet and the Post-Impressionists, Grafton Galleries, London, 1910-1911, no. 43, as L'Esprit du mal
1913
International Exhibition of Modern Art [The Armory Show], Association of American Painters and Sculptors, Armory of the Sixty-Ninth Infantry, New York, 1913, no. 175; Art Institute of Chicago, no. 138; Copley Society of Boston, Copley Hall, no. 55.
1922
Exposition d'Oeuvres de Grandes Mâitres du Dix-Neuvième Siècle, Paul Rosenberg, Paris, 1922, no. 41
1928
Salon d'Automne, Grand Palais, Paris, 1928, no. 2297, as L'éveil de la pudeur
1930
Opening Exhibition, Marie Harriman Gallery, New York, 1930, exhibition pamphlet, no. 11
1931
Old and Modern Masters in the New York Art Market from the collections of Leading New York Dealers, American Art Association-Anderson Galleries, New York, 1931, no. 57, as Paroles du Diablo
1932
French Painting, Marie Harriman Gallery, New York, 4-16 April, 1932, no cat.
1933
A Century of Progress. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1933, no. 352, as At the Edge of the Forest (Parau Na Te Varua Ino)
1934
Exhibition of French Painting from the Fifteenth Centiry to the Present Day, The California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1934, no. 102, repro., as At the Edge of the Forest
1935
One Hundred Years French Painting 1820-1920, The William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art and The Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, Kansas City, MO, 1935, no. 28, as At the Edge of the Forest (Parau na te Varu [sic] ino)
1935
The Post Impressionists, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1935, no cat., as At the Edge of the Forest
1936
Cezanne - Gauguin. The Toledo Museum of Art, 1936, no. 5, repro., as Edge of the Forest, Parau na te Varua ino.
1936
Paul Gauguin 1848-1903, A Retrospective Loan Exhibition for the Benefit of Les Amis de Paul Gauguin and The Penn Normal Industrial and Agricultural School, Wildenstein & Co., New York, 1936, no. 26, as At the Edge of the Forest, Parau...
1936
Paul Gauguin 1848-1903, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1936, no. 15, as At the Edge of the Forest, Parau na te Varua ino
1936
Paul Gauguin 1848-1903, The Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 1936, no. 24, as At the Edge of the Forest, Parau na te Varua ino
1936
Paul Gauguin Exhibition of Paintings and Prints, San Francisco Museum of Art, 1936, no. 16, repro., as At the Edge of the Forest (Parau na te Varua ino)
1938
Relationships between French Literature and Painting in the Nineteenth Century, The Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Ohio State University, 1938, no. 15, as At the Edge of the Forest.
1939
Classics of the Nude - for the Benefit of the Lisa Day Nursery, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1939, no. 30, as At the Edge of the Forest (Parua no te varua ino.)
1939
Modern French Masters, Marie Harriman Gallery, New York, 1939, no. 5
1940
Origins of Modern Art, The Arts Club of Chicago, 1940, no. 57, as At the Edge of the Forest
1941
Aspects of French Painting from Cezanne to Picasso, Los Angeles County Museum, 1941, no. 21, repro., as Paroles du diable
1950
Gauguin: Exposition du Centenaire, Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, 1950, no. 21
1950
Paul Gauguin zum 100. Geburtsjahr, Kunstmuseum Basel, 1950, no. 47, as Paroles du diable
1954
Paul Gauguin, His Place in the Meeting of East and West, Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, 1954, no. 24, repro., as Paroles du diable
1955
Albany Institute of History and Art, 1955, no cat.
1956
A Loan Exhibition, Nude in Painting - For the Benefit of Recording for the Blind, Inc., Wildenstein & Co., New York, 1956, no. 36, repro.
1956
French Painting of the Last Half of the Nineteenth Century, The North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, 1956, unnumbered checklist, repro., as PAroles du diable
1956
Loan Exhibition - Gauguin - For the Benefit of The Citizens' Committee for Children of New York City, Inc., Wildenstein & Co., 1956, no. 32, repro.
1959
Gauguin, Art Institute of Chicago; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1959, no. 42, repro.
1961
Exhibition of the Marie and Averell Harriman Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1961, unnumbered catalogue, repro. 25
1963
1913 Armory Show - 50th Anniversary, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, NY; Armory of the Sixty-ninth Regiment, NY, 1963 [shown in Utica only]
1973
Dimensions of Polynesia, Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, 1973, no. XII.6, repro., as Parua na te varua ino, Words from the Evil Spirit
1977
Paris - New York, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, 1977, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
1980
Post-Impressionism: Cross-Currents in European and American Painting 1880-1906, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980, not in cat.
1986
Capolavori Impressionisti dei Musei Americani, Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples; Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, 1986-1987, no. 20, repro.
1988
The Art of Paul Gauguin, National Gallery of Art, Washington; The Art Institute of Chicago; Grand Palais, Paris, 1988-1989, no. 147, repro.
1989
Gogen: Vzgliad iz Rossli, The State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad and the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 1989, no. 27, repro.
1995
Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1995, no. 132, ill. no. 107.
1998
Paul Gauguin: Das verlorene Paradies, Museum Folkwang Essen; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 1998-1999, no. 23, repro.
1998
Paul Gauguin, Tahiti, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany, 1998, no. 39, repro.
1999
Loan to display with permanent collection, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 1999.
2000
Art Nouveau, 1890-1914, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 2000-2001, no. 123 (shown only in Washington).
2003
Gauguin-Tahiti, L'atelier des tropiques, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2003-2004, no. 89, repro.
2007
Il Simbolismo: Da Moreau a Gauguin a Klimt, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome, 2007, no. 20, repro.
2010
Gauguin: Maker of Myth, Tate, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2010-2011, no. 101, repro.

Bibliography

1910
"Anarchy in High Art." The Tatler 491 (23 November 1910): 228 repro. but not discussed in text.
1913
Cox, K. "The Modern Spirit in Art." Harper's Weekly LVII no. 2934 (March 15, 1913): 10.
1919
Morice, Charles. Paul Gauguin. Paris, 1919: repro.
1925
Rotonchamp, Jean. Paul Gauguin 1848-1903. Paris, 1925:137
1930
Alexandre, Arsène. Paul Gauguin: Sa vie et le Sens de son Oeuvre. Paris, 1930:262
1933
Bulliet, C.J. "A Century of Progress in Collecting." Parnassus V, no. 4 (March 1933): repro
1933
Frankfurter, Alfred M. "Art in the Century of Progress." The Fine Arts 20, no. 2 (June 1933): repro.
1936
Bulliet, C. J. The Significant Moderns and Their Pictures. New York, 1936: repro. no. 76.
1938
Bowie, T.R. "Word & Picture Relationships: French Romanitc Painters and Authors in a Stdy Exhibition." Art News XXXVI, no. 34 (May 21, 1938):repro.
1941
"Cezanne to Picasso." Art Digest XI, no. 11 (March 1, 1941):20, repro.
1949
Leymarie, J. Gauguin: Exposition du Centenaire. Exh. Cat. Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris, 1949:46.
1950
Lewandowski, Herbert. Paul Gauguin, oder, Die Flucht vor der Zivilisation. Bern, 1950: 348.
1953
Dorra, H. "The First Eves in Gauguin's Garden." Gazette des Beaux-Arts XLI (March 1953):201, repro.
1956
Rewald, John. Post-Impressionism. New York, 1956:513, repro.
1959
Schwartz, M.D. "Gauguin at the Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 69, no. 412 (June 1959): 198, repro.
1961
Schneeberger, Pierre-Francis. Gauguin-Tahiti. Lausanne, 1961:26, repro.
1963
"Armory Show Restaged on 50th Anniversary." Progressive Architecture XLIV (April 1963): 63. repro.
1963
Brown, Milton W. The Story of the Armory Show. New York, 1963: 174, 175, 244, no. 175.
1964
Wildenstein, Georges. Gauguin. Paris, 1964: no. 458.
1967
Danielsson, Bengt. "Gauguin's Tahitian Titles." The Burlington Magazine 109, no. 769 (April 1967):230
1967
Dorra, Henri. "More on Gauguin's Eves." Gazette des Beaux-Arts s.6 vol 69 (February 1967):110, repro.
1973
Amishai-Maisels, Ziva. "Gauguin's 'Philasophical Eve'." The Burlington Magazine CXV (June 1973):373, 374, 377,378, 381, 382, repro.
1973
"La Chronique des Arts." Gazette des Beaux-Arts suppl. LXXXI, no. 1249 (February 1973): 151, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 148, repro.
1977
Field, Richard. Paul Gauguin: The Paintings of the First Voyage to Tahiti. New York, 1977:123
1981
Sugana, Gabriele Mandel. Tout l'oeuvre peint de Gauguin. Paris, 1981: no. 279, repro.
1983
Teilhet-Fisk, Jenahhe. Paradue Reviewed: An Interpretation of Gauguin's Polynesian Symbolism. Ann Arbor, 1983:74-77, repro.
1983
Vance, Mary Lynn Zink. "Gauguin’s Polynesian pantheon as a visual language." Ph.D. diss., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1983.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 524, no. 785, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 169, repro.
1987
Thomson, Belinda. Gauguin. London, 1987:142, repro.
1988
NGA Gauguin 1988, 147.
1988
Vandepitte, Francisca. "Het Exotisme bij Gauguin." Gentse Bijdragen tot de Kunstgeschiedenis en Oudheidkunde XXVII (1988):118-119, repro.
1989
Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. "Going Native," Art in America 77, no. 7 (July 1989):repro. 118.
1990
Beall, John. "Gauguin's Uncanny Nude: Manao tupapau." Rutgers Art Review 11 (1990): 42-43
1990
Brooks, Peter. "Gauguin's Tahitian Body." The Yale Journal of Criticism vol 3, no. 2 (Spring 1990): repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 201, repro.
1993
Christensen, Carol. "The Painting Materials and Technique of Paul Gauguin." Studies in the History of Art 41 (1993): 75-78, repro. no. 8, repro. no. 10.
1997
Damigella, Anna Maria. Paul Gauguin: la vita e l'opera. Milan, 1997:168-169, repro.
1998
Naubert-Riser, Constance. Jean McEwen: Poémes Barbares. Paris, 1998: 10, repro.
1999
Feldman, Ruth. Van Gogh to Picasso: The Moshe and Sara Mayer Collection. Tel Aviv, 1999:repro. 58
1999
Mathews, Patricia. Passionate Discontent: Creativity, Gender, and French Symbolist Art. Chicago, 1999:repro.
2000
Art Nouveau, 1890-1914. Exh. cat. Victoria & Albert Museum, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 2000-2001: no. 123.
2000
Paul Gauguin: Von der Bretagne nach Tahiti. Ein Aufbruch zur Moderne. Exh. cat. Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, 2000:142, repro.
2001
Zafran, Eric M., ed. Gauguin's Nirvana: Painters at Le Pouldu 1889-90. Exh. cat., Wadsworth Atheneum, 2001:117-118, repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 376, no. 307, color repro.
2010
Gruetzner Robins, Anna. "'Manet and the Post-Impressionists': a checklist of the exhibits." The Burlington Magazine 152 (December 2010): 786, repro. 787.

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