“Two Tahitian Women” by Paul Gauguin

Last Friday,  on April 1, 2011, a female tourist visiting the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. attacked a Paul Gauguin painting called “Two Tahitian Women“.

The 1899 painting measures 37 inches by 281 / 2 inches.


According to the Washington Post when the woman couldn’t pull the painting from the gallery wall

… she screamed, ‘This is evil!’ and pounded it with her fists.

“It was like this weird surreal scene that one doesn’t expect at the National Gallery,”  said Pamela Degotardi of New York, a bystander to the incident.

I don’t know what inspired the random attack, but I don’t believe it was an April Fool’s stunt. The Museum has charged the woman with destruction of property and attempted theft.

Part of the exhibit “Gauguin: Maker of Myth,” the painting was on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In W. Somerset Maugham‘s 1919 novel, “The Moon and Sixpence” a middle-aged English stockbroker, Charles Strickland abandons his wife and children to pursue his dream of becoming an artist, which was supposedly based on the life of Gauguin, and though I don’t know how many of the details of the book are factual I know Gauguin was French and not English, and after reading the novel earlier this year, I’d love to learn more about this crazy painter, and really really really would love to see the show.


One never forgets random acts of violence. One quiet afternoon about half a dozen years ago I was working at the Photography Satellite store when a young male tourist smashed a photograph.  On exhibit were Lee Miller‘s Second World War photographs, which included the liberation of Dachau and Buchenwald, and the photo that caused the angry outburst was the suicide of a Nazi, his wife and daughter.

close up of the suicide photo

Nazi Suicide
Leipzig, April 1945

Nazi Suicide

and the famous photo of Lee Miller taking a bath in Hitler’s tub



[Thank you JB for sharing the Gauguin story with me.]


About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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10 Responses to “Two Tahitian Women” by Paul Gauguin

  1. Reuben says:

    Reminds one that great art is provocative, inspiring and reaches deep into the soul. thank you.

  2. Pingback: Woman Rose

  3. Dumdad says:

    A picture (photo) is worth a thousand words, or so it is said. Sometimes that is true as in the Lee Miller pix.

    • dearrosie says:

      Welcome to my humble home Dumdad!
      …after working at the Museum [shops] for so many years, I can always tell when a show – especially photography – has touched some deep place in a tourist and I don’t mean that they buy lots of stuff, but how they will spend a long time looking at the books, and in many occasions come and talk to me. On July 16 2010 I wrote about meeting the widow of Swedish photojournalist Martin Adler http://wp.me/pN0M1-io at my cash register

  4. Gauguin was a stockbroker and did abandon his family to move to Tahiti and paint. Would you call that crazy? — impractical and cruel, perhaps (we don’t know much about his marriage), but hardly crazy. Or are you referring to his health problems once he got there? That’s quite another matter, as is the attacker in the gallery. Quite bizarre.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thanks for your comment Dinah. I don’t know much about Gauguin’s real life because as I mentioned, I’ve only read “The Moon and Sixpence” and don’t know how much of it was based on fact, but the way Somerset Maugham describes Charles Strickland, for example, the way he left his wife (suddenly with no warning), and the way he refused to show or sell his paintings even though he was starving, and the way he broke up the marriage of a good friend only to discard the wife later (and feel no remorse when she committed suicide) I thought he sounded like a crazy man.

  5. Barbara Rodgers says:

    It makes one wonder why a person will suddenly lose control when provoked to anger by her impression of a certain piece of art, but then again, it’s also a wonder how we can be struck with awe when we first see a special painting. I feel richly blessed that I have been to the National Gallery of Art twice.

    In December I wrote about my experience at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, when I was in the middle of my Renoir craze.
    Lately I’ve been into Bouguereau and hope to see one of his paintings someday!

    • dearrosie says:

      Good art can and does bring out emotions, but I can’t imagine how anyone can lash out and damage a painting.
      We were in D.C. for 4 days last year in January, but you know even though I saw art – more museums than I ever thought possible!- I didn’t get to the National Gallery! LOL!
      I’m going to go look at your Museum of Fine Arts blog.
      If you need another reason to come to L.A. we have a Bouguereau painting at the Museum where I work 🙂

  6. Pingback: Museum Musings: the Five Senses | Wondering Rose

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