(From info card)|
"Returning to Tahiti in the fall of 1895, Paul Gauguin was soon beset by physical ailments and financial difficulties. Despite this, in 1896-97 he painted a group of impressive canvases in a larger format than this usual works. He based Why Are You Angry? on an earlier Tahitian composition but changed the mood of the painting: here the principal figures are larger and disengaged from one another, their postures and characters more difficult to interpret. The interrogative title encourages the viewer to seek some sort of narrative, but the imagery resists a definitive reading."
The author of the Interpretive Resource at the Museum website makes an attempt:
"We are probably meant to associate the question with the pouting, bare-chested woman in the foreground; perhaps it is being posed by her companion. These languorous, young women—there are no men in the picture—sit on the ground in front of a thatched house of mysterious character. Its prominent, black door, a void "guarded" by an older woman, may be an oblique sexual allusion. The proximity of two hens and several chicks to the brooding figure, together with the latter’s milk-heavy breasts, suggests that recent motherhood is the cause of her discontent. Perhaps she is jealous of the woman standing at right, whose elegance and serene self-satisfaction point to a sensual existence unfettered by familial obligations. This implied drama of frustrated desire is complicated by the presence of a pair of women in the right background, one of them young and nubile, the other old and bent. But even this evocation of physical decline does not solve the solve the picture’s riddle, which seems to have been carefully devised by Gauguin."