Recreating the Past
Gauguin turned to his art to recreate the lost Tahitian culture — its gods, myths, and rituals. He claimed to have learned Tahitian mythology from his mistress, Tehamana, but it is more likely based on a 50-year-old text on Polynesia written by a Belgian ethnographer. Finding little or no trace of indigenous representations of Tahitian deities, Gauguin imagined their appearance, gathering ideas from the religious art of other ancient cultures. He was especially drawn to the goddess of the moon, Hina, whom the artist often portrayed with bent arms that echo a pose of Hindu deities, though no evidence exists that Tahitians ever showed her this way. He also depicted deities of his own invention such as the terrifying goddess Oviri.