Autumn is really back in Paris,so to forget the lack of sun ,the Little Art Seeker plunged into the marvellous colored paintings of the great painter Gauguin.The exhibition is amazing and we came out with beautiful visions of forgotten Paradises and enchanted landscapes imagined by this alchemist as the title suggests it!
The exhibition « Gauguin ,the alchemist’tries to explore Gauguin’s formidable ability to transform materials thanks to a never-ending capacity to experiment .Gauguin was not only a painter, he produced also ceramics, wood carving ,prints.
Gauguin was always seeking somewhere his « embryonic art » could bear fruit and where he could find his identity ,in conflict with contemporary society.Gauguin saw and imagined himself as a savage; his peruvian ancestry inspired his interest in non-Western societies primitive art ,and age-old materials such as wood.
Over his changes in residence(Brittany,Martinique,Arles, Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands)Gauguin,pursued his quest for a savage and barbarous self.
In this first part of the exhibition, the Little Art Seeker loved the lovely busts realized by Gauguin and representing his children.
From 1880, Gauguin produced several paintings in which objects play a central role as symbols of the personal world created by the artist .In Interior rue Carcel , a bunch of flowers screens a genre scene glimpsed in the background. Pottery,possibly Peruvian, on the wardrobe , a pair of clogs hanging on the wall and a sketch pad left open on the table suggest a disguised self portrait.
You refind the inanimate in Still life with Mandolin,the musical instrument making a reference to a painting by Corot,owned by his tutor Gustav Arosa.In the 1890’s Gauguin,includes more human figures in his paintings.
Gauguin realized the portrait of this young Breton,when he was living in Pont-Aven.The lady was Gauguin’s innkeeper ,and when she saw her painting, was very disappointed founding her ugly and disfigured.
In this composition the painter mixes several techniques.He’s inspired by the Japanese Prints for his layout and associates the young woman’s figure to an anthropomorphic statuette mixing Peruvian and Buddhist influences with the Briton outfit.
In 1886,Gauguin began producing stoneware as a potential source of income in the Paris studio of ceramist Ernest Chaplet , where he redefined the working relationship between ceramist and artist.He invented a new form of creation »the ceramic sculpture ».
Often Pot or vase-shaped , his ceramics have strange and complex forms ,unsuited to use of any kind.Gauguin loved standstone,a humble material transformed by firing, which he compared to the fire of hell!!!
Gauguin combined motifs,from Brittany ,Martinique and later Tahiti but also ceramics inspired by Pre-Colombian ones,Japanes ceramics seen at world fairs .
A Norwegian wooden mud,which belonged to his family’s wife ,Mette,appears in several of his paintings.The artist has represented it inordinately enlarged ,next to his slleping son Clovis.Almost monstrous ,it gives an oniric dimension to the scene.
In this self- portrait, Gauguin represents himself as a martyr and a monster.He poses in front of his painting « The yellow Christ »and a scary stoneware pot.The portrait he gives us of himself is the one of a monster with a grotesque head which represents his untamed and primitive nature.Calicined inside the kiln’s hell ,his ceramic alter ego is huddled up on itself to stand the « suffering »according the artist’s own words.
The Expanding workshop
Between 1886 and 1889, Gauguin kept changing his place of residence ,from Paris to Brittany and from Martinique to Arles .Brittany kept serving him as a repertoire of forms sometimes combined with varied sources.
He kept creating ,passing from drawing to ceramics,from carved wood to painting.He abondoned progressively the Impressionist practice of plein air and realized compositions he soon termed synthetic.Simplification of form and distance with regards to the model allowed the artist to break with nature.
« Art is an abstraction,unfortunately we’re becoming increasingly misunderstood »he wrote to Vincent Van Gogh in July 1888.It was during his sojourn in Arles in his company,the following fall,that his new aesthetic concerns were fully renewed.
The Little Art Seeker loved this painting representing young girls dancing in Brittany with their regional costume.If the painting remains globally with an Impressionist touch,there’s nonetheless a quest for synthesis in the rendering of the figures.
Gauguin after his first abortive visit to Panama and Martinique in 1887 ,prefigures his later visits to the tropiques.Gauguin wants to leave Paris in a search to find new inspirations for his art.In these foreign paradises ,he wishes to live as a salvage with only his colour and his brushes and »find new strength far away from my people ».
In Martinique ,he sets up his first studio in a hut where he adopted the warm palette seen in many works.He expanded his repertoire of motifs later reused on trips to Brittany,the small cask in Marie Henry’s dining room in Pouldu combines Breton motifs with an exotic nude woman.This woman references a seductress in the painting « Caribbean woman » ,also part of the dining room ‘s decor .he returned to the motifs in the representation of a later wooden figure:Lewdness.the lascivious temptress prefigures the Tahitian Eve.
The theme of the female in the bath is recurrent in Gauguin’s work .The woman becomes enigmatic in his relied »Soyez Mystérieuses »(Be mysterious)or temptress as in some of his Tahitian Eves.
The picture book of the Tropics
In Tahiti,Gauguin came to search for his primitive nature.When he first landed there in 1891, Tahiti had only recently become a French colony and retained its reputation of carefree paradise of plenty .However,Gauguin was soon disappointed :customs and traditions had been abandoned under Christian Evangelization and only very rare material traces of traditional myths survived.
From then on,he relied on what he could find;photographs and books written by Europeans,everyday objects,Tahitian collections of objects d’art,whose styles and motifs Gauguin combined with no regard for their provenance:Tahiti,the Marquesas Islands.
He was attracted by the high level of abstraction and the decorative character of Oceanian art.Thanks to his basic grasp of Tahitian,he developed the habit of inscribing titles in this language on his paintings ,thereby their enigmatic dimension.
Gauguin did not burden himself with veracity ,in » the Meal » ,the table and the tablecloth are Western in style ,the raw plantains are inedible,and the wooden bowl was meant to contain fish and not water ,in Upaupa(the fire dance), he represents a ritual festive scene that he probably imagined as this type of event was outlawed for obscenity.
As soon as he arrived in Tahiti in 1891,Gauguin envisaged writing a book narrating the impressions of his voyage.He wrote a first draft in 1893,between his two Oceanian sojourns:he entitled it Noa Noa,fragrant in Tahitian , »What Tahiti exudes « in the artist’s words.
In his album he added watercolors,cut and pasted woodcuts and prints heightened with color.The Little Art Seeker really admired the beautiful album whose pages are displayed in the exhibition on a giant screen.
In Tahiti Gauguin created his own personal pantheon in wood carvings ,prints,paintings and ceramics .He accorded great importance to the figure of Hina placed in the background of one of his self-portraits(portrait of the Artist with the idol).This free appoach to Tahitian mythology was linked to his interest in theosophy which advocated a universal truth shared by all religions.He particularly admired the figure of Buddha,whose poses are found in many of his deities.
On this very famous painting,Gauguin paints his girlfriend Teha’amana with her most beautiful « mission dress » posing in front of writings from the Ile de Pâques and a representation of Hina,the goddess of the moon.
Gauguin’s oeuvre reached its high point in the exotic environment of Tahiti then the Marquisa Islands.In 1901 ,he settled in Atuona where he built his house studio.The upper section of the entrance of the house is framed by five polychromed sculpted panels whose lintel bears the inscription »house of pleasures ».The combination of the sculpted reliefs and building was inspired by the Maori houses that Gauguin saw at the Auckland museum in 1895.
All of the figures sculpted in very low relief are variations on previous motifs:Gauguin created this masterpiece from his own work.The result is very beautiful and impressive.
Towards the end of his life,Gauguin realized paintings n a horizontal form with dimensions similar to decorative friezes.The palette is more harmonious and figures appear with increasing frequency.Rupe,rupe is an exercise in pure decoration ,an idyllic paradise far from Gauguin’s reality.The series of engravings produced by the artist at the end of his life forms a continual horizontal band on his studio walls in his house .It was here that he died on 8 May 1903.
The exhibition ends on an explosion of colors and is just gorgeous.You leave it with the impression of being totally immersed into endless paradises.So friends,if you come to Paris run to see this amazing exhibition.The Little Art Seeker warmly recommends it.See you soon!!!