This happy, bright painting is in stark contrast with the famous Where Do We Come From? Where Are We? Where Are We Going? which is somber and dark.
In fact, after painting this masterpiece he attempted suicide by drinking poison in 1897. After recovering, he painted the cheerful Tahitian Pastoral which reflects his uplifted frame of mind.
The Tahitian Pastoral is a soft-textured oil on canvas depicting an earthly paradise, where people are at one with nature. There are six partially nude male and female figures in lush, tropical surroundings.
The horseman and the three women on the left side of the painting also appear in Rupe Rupe also known as Luxury. Awash with golden, warm tones, the work has a nostalgic quality. Gauguin uses a horizontal Japanese-inspired format to portray a "primitive" Tahiti.
The Tahitian word "fa'ai'ei'e"and not "faa iheihe" means "to beautify or decorate" as in preparation for a feast. It has also been proposed that perhaps the painting's inscription was misspelled and was supposed to read "Faa Ineine" which means "preparations for a festival".
The painting was lent to the 1913 Armory Show. Thirteen paintings of Gauguin hung in Gallery R alongside works by Puvis de Chavannes, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. It is interesting that some were real-life friends of Gauguin and admirers of his work.
The Tahitian Pastoral was singled out as illustrative of Gauguin's ability to portray life in the South Seas. In an excerpt from the Forum magazine, art critic W.D MacColl writes, ""The fire, the sombre beauty, the passion of the Tahitian forest are there…" Further on, MacColl remarks, "In Faa Iheihe it has become a decorative panel worthy of the doge's palace."
Despite the eternal, paradise theme with its warm, rich colours and closely-locked continuous design, this masterpiece is brought back to earth with its rough textures and exotic tropical landscape.