The White Horse
Although Gauguin was settled in Tahiti when he painted this superb picture, it does not primarily suggest a local connection but rather a final outcome of the sense of newly tapped powers in color and new sensations to be derived from it that had been the preoccupation of a whole half-century. The seed of Impressionism, it might be said, expanded here into a marvellous exotic bloom. The color, however, is no longer descriptive or atmospheric but makes an impact on the senses akin to that of music. The white horse itself suggests some creature of heroic fable, yet while it shares this appearance of belonging to an imaginary world with the riders in the background, the picture had its basis in Polynesian reality. The inhabitants used horses as a means of transport in the absence of roads and bridges. Bengt Danielsson, the anthropologist and historian, in his book Gauguin in the South Seas, makes this remark with special reference to the Marquesas where `everyone still rides a horse from the bishop down to the smallest native boy'. Gauguin did not move to the Marquesas until 1901 but as this picture shows the native horsemanship had already caught his attention.
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