Hiva Oa is the second largest island in the Marquesas Islands, in French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. It is the largest island of the Southern Marquesas group. The Post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) moved there from Tahiti in 1901, for reasons not entirely clear. Possibly he thought Hiva Oa to be a tropical paradise: although at the same time he remonstrated with the local bishop, and resented the intrusion of civic authorities, the abuses of which he made a point of recording; while he might have believed he could practically assist the indigenous Polynesian islanders in the cause. In a letter of 1920 to his picture dealer Ambrose Vollard, he described his reliance, given the shortage of art materials on the island:
"I have opened your box. Canvas and glue - perfect. Japanese paper - perfect. But the colours!!!... What do you expect me to do with 6 tubes of white and terre verte, which I seldom use? I have only one small tube of carmine lake left. So you must send me immediately: 20 tubes of white, 4 large tubes of carmine lake..."