Atiti on his deathbed
In 1891 Paul Gauguin moves to Tahiti. There he becomes friends with his neighbours, the Suhas family. He feels particularly close to the young Aristide. When the little boy suddenly dies on 5 March 1892, Gauguin paints this portrait of ‘Atiti’ on his deathbed, with a rosary in his folded hands and a blue ribbon with a medallion around his neck.
Gauguin does not aim to depict reality literally, but to portray his inner experience thereof. Colour, line and shape are the means by which to express his mood and feeling. In Tahiti he develops the style for which he became so famous, with highly simplified forms and bright colours.
The forms of Atiti’s body, his nose, his mouth and the jewellery are further emphasized with contour lines. The bright coloured surfaces of the pillow, Atiti’s clothing and the bouquet form a strong contrast with the child’s blue-black hair and the dark brown background. These colour surfaces and the sharp outlines give the portrait great intensity.