Paul Gauguin had presumably referred to this soul. In his painting “WE” does not refer to material world that are unreal and that which our mind personifies.This paper is trying to establish intellectual and philosophical aspect of gauguin’s painting on this ground. The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture in it’s publication “Aspects of Vedanta” has said:
Sankara is not alone in drawing our attention to the illusory nature of empirical life. Plato, Kant, and Hegel adopt the same view, and in recent times, Bergson, equipped with all the knowledge of modern science, arrives at the same conclusion. The intellect,he says, disguises reality, misrepresents it, and presents to us a static world, …
The painting of our topic very much reflects this illusion suffered by the artist, though, it seems, he very much understood that “real” is different from this illusion. Also, Paul Gauguin relflects the illusion suffered by this world. Ingo F Walther in his book “Paul Gauguin 1848-1903 The Primitive Sophisticate” has mentioned:
The spectrum of human activity encompassed by the painting spans all of life, from birth to death, in all its wondruous diversity. The new-born child lying in the grass, seeing the light of day for the first time, marks one boundary of Gauguin's stage, and the careworn
old woman who looks so downcast as she meditates upon the past marks the other. Between the two lies the copious adult world of fears and joys. The exotic idol
in the background, and the two people walking (possibly lovers), are there for atmospheric effect, and bridge gap between Man and the natural setting. Gauguin
reveals considerable ambition in the way in which he placed some favourite
subjects in his panorama - the relaxed reclining nude, the figures sitting lost in the
thought, the cult statute. The figures are there to evoke associative meanings, rather to explain or illustrate. Gauguin was not concerned with being understood: rather, he was interpreting life as a great mystery. The world's lack of understanding, which was pushing him towards suicide, was obliquely expressed in his emphasis of the impenetrable and incomprehensible.#
**Page 45 and 46 in "Aspects of Vedanta"
#Page 80 in "Paul Gauguin 1848-1903 The Primitive Sophisticate" By Ingo F Walther
The painting by depicting the various stages of life, in effect has carried the message that life is full of changes and life is nothing but an illusion. Even the animals and birds found in tha painting undergo the changes of life which is an illusion. The blue sky found in the painting is also an illusion. The painting depicts the convulsions of his mind and his yearning to show the world the difference between the 'real' and 'unreal'.
The other side of illusion
But, interestingly, illusion is having another side.
Swami Lokeswarananda in his translation of Mandukya Upanisad has said: