Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

These words appear in French in the left-hand corner of Paul Gauguin’s enigmatic masterpiece, named after those three questions, depicting a group of primitive Tahitian women at various stages of life: birth, childhood, middle age, death, and the beyond. While all of them fall against the background of a mystical Tahitian landscape, there is one figure that stands out, a blue idol, which is the essence of the painting. As Gauguin himself wrote of it,

The Idol is there not as a literary explanation, but as a state, less statue perhaps than the animal figures; less animal too, becoming one in my dream, in front of my hut, with the whole of nature, dominating our primitive soul, the imaginary consolation of our sufferings and what they contain of the value and the uncomprehending before the mystery of our origins and our future.
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