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The first trip to Martinique

In 1887 Gauguin wrote to Mette: "What I want most of all is to get out of Paris, which is a wilderness for the poor man. My reputation as an artist grows by the day, yet at times I cannot find anything to eat for three days in a row, with serious consequences for my health, but most of all for my energy!'. That year, accompanied by Charles Laval, Gauguin decided to leave France, where he felt his career had no opportunity to develop, to "live like a savage" and work on an island in the Gulf of Panama. Out of money, Gauguin was forced to work in the excavation of the Panama Canal. In the first week of June, they moved to the nearby island of Martinique, in the 19th century seen as a paradise on earth. Gauguin wrote to a friend: "Not far from us is a sandy beach and the sea where we swim. And everywhere we look there are palm and other fruit trees that are ideal for a landscape artist". Unfortunately, Gauguin himself fell victim to malaria and he was forced to seek repatriation. Although ill and poor, he still managed to find the physical and mental energy to execute many sketches and paint a dozen canvases before his return. Gauguin said: "What I find so bewitching are the figures, and every day here there is a continual coming and going of black women". Impressed by their imposing beauty, Gauguin often made Martinican women subjects of his canvases. In spite of his poor health and financial difficulties, his painting had never been so full of light and vitality. The Martinique pictures are significant in that they mark a definitive break with Impressionism.

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