At the end of the 19th century, French painter Paul Gauguin left his home in Paris to escape, as he put it, “everything that is artificial and conventional”. He was headed for French Polynesia and would settle in Tahiti. A mysteriously alluring island, whose unconventional beauty extended to both its people and its landscapes, Tahiti was evoked in works such as Fatata te Miti and Mahana No Atua, paintings which years later would sell just shy of $40 million apiece.
It was Tahiti that made Gauguin so feted and not the other way around. One of the 118 islands spread over two and a half million square miles of South Pacific ocean, Tahiti is an inspirational feast: from the beauty of its nature, to that of its people, their traditions and language. Gauguin was enthralled, obsessed even with the exotic beauty of everything he discovered here. It was his yearning for a lost paradise, a lost innocence that so consumed him in his art, a yearning that led him to Tahiti. It explains his many paintings of barely adult, innocent-faced Tahitian girls who are posed against a backdrop of mysterious jungle. Subjects that have come to define his paintings and his oeuvre.
Papeete, the largest of the islands and the capital of Tahiti is known by the locals as the Island of Love. It was here that Gauguin first fell deeply in love with a Tahitian girl and began to paint pictures of her for his collection, of which many now reside in Tahiti’s Gauguin Museum. But there is so much to explore here aside from the Gauguin Museum. The island is an endless source of inspiration. From Point Venus, track the transit of the planet Venus across the night sky. Captain Cook once stood there to do the very same in 1769. There’s also the enchanting Faarumai waterfalls, where peacefulness descends in time with the water. And, of course, untouched beaches, whose beauty will stop you in your tracks.
Visit Tahiti and you will be under the same spell the island put on Gauguin, inspiring him to paint some of the most famous synthesist works of art, thus influencing future greats like Picasso and Matisse. Visit Tahiti and you will be reminded of how spectacular the world can be. Visit Tahiti and you will begin to understand how travel can lay down a path to greatness. Because, ultimately, travel inspired some of the greatest artistic masterpieces the world has ever seen.