Gauguin explored the theory of synaesthesia in Tahiti. It fitted his own ideas about man’s unity with nature. Modern civilisation had preached that man possesses a soul belonging to another dimension but Gauguin’s observation of primitive people lead him to believe that human existence is just another aspect of the natural environment.
According to the theory of synaesthesia, a work of art should unite and not divide artistic genres. A visual painting should imply sound and movement as if it were also a dance or a drama. This theory appealed to Gauguin who saw an analogy with his own belief that man and nature should be perceived as a single entity and not as distinct forms of existence. In “Joyeuseté” he makes an ambitious attempt to combine both these ideas.
Two Tahitian girls kneel in a decorative Tahitian landscape. The abstract patterns created by the various planes of glowing colours blend the figures into their natural environment. The girls are as much a part of the forest as the tree which provides them with shade and the dog which forages in the foreground. The girl on the left is playing a flute and three semi-naked figures perform a tribal dance in the background. The graceful lines which delineate the contrasting blocks of colour, the sloping haunch of the dog, and the sensual curves of the plants and branches are intended to provoke a subconscious harmony and rhythm similar to that inspired by music.
Gauguin therefore combines the concept of man’s unity with nature, and the theory that a painting should unite diverse artistic genres.
Image source: The Yorck Project