I wrote earlier this week about the life of Paul Gauguin following a visit to the Tate to see Gauguin: Maker of Myth ( http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/gauguin/ )
Gauguin had been a stockbroker and a Sunday painter before taking up art full-time after an economic downturn in the early 1880s, as a result of the collapse of a French bank. He was largely self-taught, using the art he had collected when a stockbroker, including Pissarros and Cézannes, as a study aid.
He was a shameless manipulator of the truth, the sort of self-conscious user of shock tactics we might associate with a modern generation of artists.
His most famous works are, of course, his sensual, visions of Tahiti. The curators will show how his Tahiti paintings weave their own kind of mythology or indeed simply just fantasy.For instance, his beautiful semi-naked young women proffering platters of fruit were, argue the curators, largely a product of Gauguin’s imagination. Power and desire are never very far away in his work.
If the Tahitian pictures are among his most recognisable works, the exhibition, Gauguin: Maker of Myth, also examines his output beyond this colourful period in his artistic life.
Four paintings made in the late 1880s in Brittany are brought together for the first time. It was these works that most atttracted my attention. They are religious pieces and capture some spriritual insight refelcting perhaps a deeper search in the artist.These works ‑ Yellow Christ, Green Christ, Self-portrait as Christ in the Garden of Olives and Vision of the Sermon are very engaging pieces.
Gauguin was also an adept self-mythologiser: the Self-portrait as Christ in the Garden of Olives sees him paint himself as if Jesus before the crucifixion: isolated, betrayed. According to one commentator, “it is the ultimate bombastic or overblown statement of the artist as creator”. Another comments: “He was an arch-manipulator of his own artistic identity and wove elaborate myths around himself.”
The exhibition was well set out and the small guide very helpful to this novice.
The Tate at its best – though it was very overcrowded……!