The two women who pose nearest to us appear in several different iterations of this group of artworks. The particular artwork in front of us here was produced using gouache and watercolour and is unique in the shape of the canvas which is curved in a fan formation. It was extremely rare for Gauguin to work in this way, and the vast majority of his paintings were in the standard rectangle shape that suited both his portrait and landscape paintings. There is little information available on this particular painting and so we cannot really determine as to why the artist chose to produce an artwork in this format. His use of watercolours was widespread during this part of his career and the content itself is entirely in line with his oeuvre of around this time. The artist is more famous for his use of oils, but often he would have to make do with whichever mediums were available at the time, particularly once he was living in very remote parts of the world when acquiring new stock would become very difficult.
Gauguin adored the more exotic cultures that he came across during his travels and eventually committed entirely to living within them himself. There was a strong tradition of European artists seeking inspiration from more primitive cultures but normally that was achieved by studying work in a domestic setting, from items that had been imported. Gauguin however was willing to visit, even live, in these types of regions of the world and so can honestly claim to actually understand some of the cultures from where they came. Most others would simply appreciate the art itself and not get the opportunity to visit any of these countries in person. One example of this would be the likes of Degas and Van Gogh who collected Japanese prints and would use them for inspiration in a number of paintings, but they would never visit that country themselves.
This was an artist who played an important role in bridging the gap between western artists and artistic styles from other civilisations. They always were looking for new ideas, particularly within the 19th and 20th century, and so those brave enough to sail off to investigate other cultures were always better placed to make the most of these alternative approaches. He loved to also try out different mediums as well, including ceramics when he had the necessary materials available. He would sometimes be cut off and be left without deliveries for months on end, so was sometimes forced into using some resources over others. He used watercolours and oils frequently, as well as study drawings using charcoal and pastels. There were memorable ceramics that helped to inspire the likes of Picasso too.