His works experienced challenges with a constant tension between the police and the bishop. This exacerbated Gauguin's lack of funding and poor health. He painted his final masterpieces, the Barbarous Tales and The Gold of Their Bodies, amidst these worries, which progressively weakened him. In 1889, Gauguin met Jacob Meyer de Haan, who later became his friend. Meyer accompanied Paul to Brittany but was unable to proceed to the South Pacific with him due to health issues. Paul painted his friend's portrait and strangely titled it Nirvana. This same diabolic-looking doppelgänger of Meyer amid a Southern Sea landscape is seen in the Barbarous Tales 13 years later. In his last paintings, Gaugin attempts to reconcile his Western background with a ferocious Polynesia. Meyer's figure depicts a demonic aspect, a likely representation of corruption in the West. Two stoical Polynesian characters represent The Orient.

Tohotaua's reappearance in Barbarous Tales depicts a fascinated Gauguin by the character. She first appeared in the impressionist's artwork Woman With A Fan. She is the red-orange-haired character kneeling in the foreground of the painting. The dark-haired female character is seated in a classical Buddhist posture. All three characters show a steady gaze suggesting that communication is with the observer rather than with each other in the painting itself. The painting is perhaps Gauguin's most mysterious yet loveliest piece. The message being portrayed in this artwork is unclear. It symbolizes clouds disappearing after a cleansing shower of rain. The white clusters of smoke depict this. The lilies in the foreground and the fruit-like offerings that seem sacrificial are ancient symbols that depict an announcement of life and death simultaneously.

The nakedness of the female characters embodies they have nothing to hide. Yet, the male character is fully-clothed, questioning the motive behind the representation. Another mystery is the depiction of race symbolized in this painting. The male character likely represents the West, and the female figures represent the Polynesia people. The brush strokes seem even with detail on the flowers in the background, on Tohotaua's hair and the sacrifice placed in front of the three figures. The different hues each represent the message the artist was implying, leaving a mysterious feel observed by the spectator. The figures do not seem to be in unison. Instead, each seems to represent individualism.