No te aha oe riri (Why Are You Angry?)
oil on canvas
The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection
Devising his titles was an important part of Gauguin's creative process, particularly when they were painted onto the canvas
or carved into the object. He chose Tahitian titles to conjure a remote, exotic world for Western ears and to add a sense of mystery. Several of his Tahitian paintings are titled with questions, perhaps fragments of conversation between the figures that hint at small dramas played out between them, without ever fully explaining their meaning.
Gauguin's grasp of the Tahitian language, however, was patchy at best. His Tahitian titles are often ungrammatical and his occasional translations of them into French were frequently inaccurate, yet give a sense of his intended meaning.