In Where will you Marry, a younger woman in traditional dress stretches forward on the ground. She is looking back towards, and partially obscuring, a more matronly figure in a western style dress who raises her hand in a gesture of significance.
The flower behind the girl’s ear is a traditional Tahitian symbol by which nubile women signal availability for marriage. At the foot of the image is an inscription in Tahitian: "NAFEA Faa ipoipo", which translates as: "When will you marry?"
Many of Gauguin’s paintings from this time bore inscriptions in the language.
The voluptuous sensuality of the woman is conveyed by the bright flat colours which Gauguin characteristically employed at this period.
The style is somewhat naïve, with the simplified outlines he used to convey his ideal of primitive art.
The forms are curved and full; the women seem to blend with the landscape as though they were growing like flowers from the green and yellow grass.
There is, however, a note of apprehension in the furtive glance of the young woman, and this tension is heightened by the approaching figures who seem to be mere intruders into this scene of silent significance.
He hoped to find a rural idyll in which he could discover and reflect a primitivism in artistic expression, a pure form of expression which was coveted by his contemporaries but which he felt could not be truly expressed within the trammels of conventional society and thought.
The Tahiti he found could not live up to his expectations. The island had been colonized by the French since the 18th century, and much of the native culture had been subsumed under the influence of colonial rule.
However Gauguin did find inspiration and this picture, painted on his first visit to the island, displays much of the freedom of imagination and expression he found there.