Gauguin’s Loss of Virginity (1890-1)

Gauguin's important painting from 1890 known as Loss of Virginity or Girl with a Fox is full of symbolism. Scholars write about it but no-one to my knowledge has yet recognized the most important fact: the fox with the furry paw is Gauguin.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Gauguin, Loss of Virginity or Girl with a Fox (1890-1) Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA

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As the artist grew older, the eyes in his self-portraits grew narrower, his pupils furtively looking to the side. The self-portrait here (near left) was painted two years before the fox. 

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Captions for image(s) above:

Left: Detail of Gauguin's Loss of Virginity (1890-1)
Right: Detail of Gauguin's Self-portrait with Emile Bernard (1888), inverted

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In this slightly later self-portrait (near left) his eyes burn green with a passion and intensity again similar to his lupine self-representation.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Left: Detail of Gauguin's Loss of Virginity (1890-1)
Right: Detail of Gauguin's Self-portrait (1893-4)

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This last comparison, like the first, pre-dates the fox. The artist's eyes are so caricatural that they begin to look animalistic or leaf-shaped. We have shown elsewhere how Gauguin painted his "self-portrait" as a plant. In this instance, though, there is an added element: the animal/artist's extended furry leg is a metaphor for his hairy paintbrush.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Left: Detail of Gauguin's Loss of Virginity (1890-1)
Right: Detail of Gauguin's Self-portrait after Les Miserables (1888)

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The reclining nude, then, is on a different level of reality. She is "his painting" as reclining nudes often are in paintings by artists as far apart as Titian and Manet, the nude as the iconic subject of art.

Gauguin as the fox paints the nude.

Captions for image(s) above:

Gauguin, Loss of Virginity or Girl with a Fox (1890-1)  

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Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 02 Nov 2011. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.