Mahana no Atua (Day of God)
oil on canvas
The Art Institute of Chicago,
Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection
Gauguin frequently depicted the Polynesian deity, Hina, goddess of the moon. Because he did not find any Tahitian representations of her, he looked elsewhere for inspiration, finding it in the writings of a Belgian ethnographer who had traveled to Tahiti and photographs of figures from the Javanese temple complex at Borobudur. Her haunting form, therefore, is a sort of composite deity culled from various sources and Gauguin's imagination. Rivaling the mysterious goddess is the dazzling play of color and abstract form that suggests the gently swaying waves at the shore.