In search of an unspoilt world.
Ta matete, Paul Gauguin, 1892, Kunstmuseum Basel
Instead of the paradise Paul Gauguin expects on Tahiti, he finds a country destroyed by the effects of Colonialism, with alcoholism, opium addiction and prostitution all commonplace. Ta matete, the painting he created there, is one of Gauguin's most significant works and portrays five women sitting on a bench wearing what were known as "mission dresses". The scene is of a marketplace – Ta Matete means The Market – where the women are selling themselves.
Paul Gauguin, searching for a world unspoilt by European civilization, used a degree of artistic licence in the scene. For example he took inspiration from an Egyptian tomb painting for his portrayal of the five women, using a frontal view for their upper bodies but a profile view for their legs and heads.