Two girls

Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)

1891, oil on canvas

Why is this work so important?

This painting is unique because it was inspired by his encounter with Paul Gauguin during the Exposition Universelle in Paris: an important turning point in Maillol’s career.

First paintings

One is painted full-face, the other in profile: a mystery seems to be hidden behind the soft, dreamy image of these two young women. We can detect Paul Gauguin’s influence on Maillol in the large flat areas of colour and the simple outlining of the faces.
Gauguin, did not seek to depict nature in a strictly realistic manner and had no compunction about using unrealistic colours. Maillol discovered the paintings where the large areas of colour completely obliterated any sense of linear perspective, paintings where it’s possible to combine inner perceptions, the stuff of dreams, and a vision of nature.

In detail

Observe the vegetation closely: looks rather like wallpaper – simply there as a backdrop to the double portrait.

Did you know?

In this work, Maillol has borrowed a characteristic motif from Gauguin: the hat worn by the girl on the right. It was a fashion essential in those closing days of the nineteenth century. It is depicted almost as an abstraction, as if it were blending in with the foliage of the background.