Day of the Gods (Mahana no Atua)

Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903)
1894, Oil on canvas, 26 7/8 x 36 in. (68.3 x 91.5 cm)
Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, Art Institute, 1926.198

(From Quick Facts)
"Gauguin left his home in France to live and work in the Polynesian island of Tahiti in the South Pacific. Although small in size, this painting appears monumental, and recalls great religious frescos. However, this work of memory and imagination was painted on a trip back to Paris. The painting is divided into three zones. A sculpture of a god looms in the background landscape. The three female figures at the edge of the pool are in a middle zone, while the mysterious lower zone represents a sacred pool that reflects 'the essence of form, color.'"

(From info card)
Day of the God is one of a small number of paintings of Tahitian subjects that Paul Gauguin made in France between his stays in the South Pacific. An imaginary rather than realistic depiction of the South Seas, it is dominated by an idol of the goddess Hina. To the right of her, women dance the upaupa, a suggestive ancient Tahitian dance that missionaries and colonial authorities tried to suppress. In a middle ground of pink sand sits a female bather flanked by ambiguously gendered figures lying on their sides. Although the arrangement of this trio seems symbolic - perhaps of birth, life, and death - Gauguin made its exact meaning an enigma."