The first year of Gauguin’s second visit to Tahiti was probably the happiest of his life. Having given up trying to please a European audience with over-stylised depictions of visionary scenes, Gauguin attempted to provide a genuine insight into Tahitian culture. Living in the jungle amongst natives as yet untouched by modern civilisation, Gauguin – now the proud father of a Tahitian child - had a unique opportunity to record their daily life.
In the “Dug-out” Gauguin depicts the simple life of a Tahitian family. They are contented, self-sufficient and live in harmony with their surroundings. They drink out of wooden bowls while relaxing next to their rudimentary canoe. The axe in the foreground implies that they have just constructed the canoe by hollowing-out timber cut from the forest. They have worked together as a family; even the toddler has contributed, learning to harvest the natural environment at an early age. Their expressions are completely relaxed. Having completed their labours, they are totally at peace with each other and the world. The scene is lit by the golden glow of a glorious sunset. The boat - traditionally a means of escaping danger – has become a symbol of self-sufficiency.
In the “Dug-out” Gauguin celebrates the joys of family life through the depiction of an everyday scene. Gauguin, whose pictures tend to reflect his own state of mind, finally appears to have achieved inner peace.