It is not so bad to have a rival. French painter Paul Gauguin also had one -- a Dutch painter named Jacob Meyer de Haan. While the Dutch was not match for Gauguin in terms of painting skills, the French artist held a sense of defeat against him throughout life and used to portray him as a savage. But why?
Gauguin, who went to Tahiti in his search for primitive and pure beauty in 1891, created his late masterpieces after moving to Hiva Oa, a more remote island than Tahiti, in 1901. This mysterious painting, which Gauguin painted a year before his death, also shows Meyer de Haan. The woman in the middle is a native named Tohotaua, whom the French painter portrayed as an incarnation of animism. A native young man is sitting behind her with his legs crossed in a Buddha-like position. The man on his left is Meyer de Haan. Gauguin depicted his friend as a Jewish Christian with red hair, staring forward with a greedy look and with his sharp chin on his palm. While the painting reflects the popular idea of his time that viewed animism as the origin of all religion, Gauguin depicted his friend as a greedy and cunning man for a reason.
Before coming to Tahiti, Gauguin opened a joint workshop at an inn in a French fishing village with Meyer de Haan. Although Meyer de Haan could not become an artistic competitor with Gauguin, the Dutch was a better performer when it came to romance. Both painters fell in love with the inn’s owner Marie Henry. But her choice was Meyer de Haan. Gauguin was a poor artist despite his artistic achievements, while the Dutch painter was from a wealthy Jewish family in the Netherlands. As Marie Henry got pregnant with Meyer de Haan’s baby, he returned home, while Gauguin left for Tahiti. The two painters never met again. Seven years after Meyer de Haan’s passing, Gauguin stilled depicted him as a sly and greedy savage. An artistic rival is missed. Perhaps, Gauguin could not forgive his rival in romance until he died.