It seems that many of Gauguin's sketches, which he made either in small note-books or on pieces of paper (later by him assembled in a portfolio: Documents-Tahiti, 1891, 1892, 1893), were executed during the first months, while his impressions were still new and before he dared use color. These studies constitute indeed a "documentation" of a particular kind. They show helter-skelter landscapes with lush vegetation, natives in various characteristic attitudes, squatting women, mothers nursing their babies, numerous heads of children, images of idols, tracings of ornamental designs, animals of all kinds, studies of plants and trees, nudes, details of hands and feet, etc. Some are lightly done, jotted down with a few pencil strokes, others are worked out carefully, a few have been redrawn with ink, to give their lines greater firmness, still others have been touched up with watercolor. But whether they are mere shorthand notes or products of careful study, none of them shows any preoccupation with a 'finished' drawing to be shown or exhibited as a work of observation and skill. They all have the personal character of chance notations, filed away on small pieces of paper for possible later use. For this seems exactly to have been their purpose, what Gauguin meant when he wrote that he hoped his researches "may prove fruitful" and that he was accumulating "a great many documents which will serve me for a long time." (J. Rewald, Gauguin Drawings, New York, 1958, p. 15)
A letter from the Wildenstein Institute dated Paris, March 14, 1997 accompanies this watercolor, which will be included in the forthcoming revised edition of their Gauguin catalogue raisonné.