Amongst the passions Keith and I share and enjoy, is our love of art. The Tate Modern is exhibiting the works of Gauguin, so with notepad in one hand and ticket in the other we made our way to the South Bank for the second occasion this week. The Exhibition runs until the 16th September 2011, and spans 11 rooms covering Gauguin’s identity, drawings, travels, ideology, his posthumous reputation and writings.
His Life (1848 - 1903)
Gauguin worked at a stockbroker in Paris and his painting started as a hobby. In the early stages of his career he was married to Mette, with whom he fathered five children. He struggled to make ends meet, but spent time in Rouen, Copenhagen, Tahiti and Brittany. Through his travels he attempted to find culture, his style and himself. Apart from oil painting, he dabbled with sculpting and writing. He eventually parted from his wife and lived with a number of ladies in Tahiti. In the latter years of his life he was plagued by illness and eventually died of a heart attack in 1903.
In the era in which Gauguin began to paint, the impressionists were in vogue, but his works in that style and from that time, seem almost depressed and sombre. The only hint of hope is seen in small splurges of vibrant colour; in a flower, cloud or pillow. As you follow Gauguin’s work through its development you see fleeting experiments with the existential. His paintings often take on a dream like quality, which is almost a rebellion from impressionism. There’s also a sense of narcissism as in “Christ in the Garden of Olives”, where he imposed his features over Jesus’, a move which earned him criticism. Was he being self-indulgent or was he feeling betrayed by the bourgeoisie of Paris? Gauguin’s work was controversial. His paintings featuring women are particularly disturbing, bordering on perverse as seen in “The loss of virginity”. The fox in the painting is symbolic of sexuality, loss of innocence and the taboo. It is unfortunate that this reputation overshadows his work. However, this is what you get for a self-imposed exile whilst painting naked young girls. Conversely, though, we read a mixture of shame and temptation in these paintings.
We are not fans of Gauguin’s style; however, we do love his symbolism and abstract messages. They are profound and plastered on thick and richly. As someone who works in a bank, writing a blog as a hobby, I love that he was an ex-stockbroker who pursued a dream. We also adored the family antiquities, heirlooms and his sculptures.
As with all exhibitions, treat it as a glimpse or chapter into the life of a genius. If you feel inspired to visit the exhibition, good for you, you are embracing London’s arts and culture and seeing a master’s work.
Gauguin: Maker of Myth
Showing at the Tate Modern until 16 January 2011