Monday, February 9, 2015

Paul Gauguin 8 February to 28 June 2015 FONDATION BEYELER Basel Switzerland

Paul Gauguin 8 February to 28 June 2015

“I am leaving in order to have peace and quiet, to be rid of the influence of civilization. I want only to do simple, very simple art, and to be able to do that, I have to immerse myself in virgin nature, see no one but savages, live their life, with no other thought in mind but to render, the way a child would, the concepts formed in my brain and to do this with the aid of nothing but the primitive means of art, the only means that are good and true.”

Paul Gauguin in conversation with Jules Huret, 1891

Paul Gauguin (born in 1828 in Paris, died in 1903 in Atuona on Hiva Oa, French Polynesia) has gone down in art history as the painter of the South Pacific who created dreamlike pictures of an exotic realm in beautiful, luminous colours.

Among the icons of modern art, his groundbreaking works in pure hues and flat forms revolutionized art and profoundly influenced the artists of the following generation. No artist before Gauguin had so persistently searched for freedom and happiness in his life and art. This is another reason for the enormous popularity, which lasts until today. It was not until the age of 35 that Gauguin abandoned his career as stockbroker and insurance salesman to become a professional painter, turning from bourgeois to bohemian.

Over the course of the following nearly twenty years he produced a rich and diverse oeuvre, which aside from paintings and sculptures included drawings, prints and writings.Based on unique masterpieces from world-renowned museums and private collections, the Fondation Beyeler exhibition focuses on Gauguin's mature period, when he arrived at his inimitable style. 

Beginning with the radical works done in Brittany, the show continues with the famous pictures that emerged in Polynesia – first on Tahiti, and finally on the Marquesas Islands. It is this imagery in particular that illustrates the formal innovations and richness in content of Gauguin's expressive pictorial language. 

While the paintings form the core of the exhibition, the artist's sculptures, influenced by the Maohi culture, hold a special place, major examples being presented in a dialogue with the renowned canvases. The accent lies on Gauguin's innovative treatment of figure and landscape, which inhis hands enter a harmonious interplay.

Dissatisfied with the situation in the Paris art world, Gauguin decided to explore Brittany, which at the time was still largely unspoiled and promised fresh artistic impulses. During his stay in early 1888 in the small town of Pont-Aven he developed an original style that became known as “Synthetism”. This involved brilliant, pure colours, strong contrasts, and clearly outlined forms juxtaposed with one another to produce imagery that emphasized the flat canvas. Unlike the Impressionists, Gauguin's aim was to record not visible reality but a deeper truth that resided beyond appearances. Soon he became the mentor of a group of young artists who went down in history as the “School of Pont-Aven.” In Brittany there emerged idyllic landscapes, groundbreaking sacred imagery, and complex self-portraits that reflected the various roles in which the artist saw himself.

On his search for “the primitive and savage,” Gauguin hoped to infuse his art with fresh life, and so, in 1891, he decided to emigrate to Tahiti. He imagined the island in the South Pacific as an unsullied tropical paradise in which his talents could unfold free of all restraint. Yet soon Gauguin was forced to realize that Tahitian reality did not conform with his ideal at all, because colonialization and Christianization had largely destroyed the original culture. The artist attempted to compensate for this disappointment by depicting the Polynesian landscape and people in terms of dreamlike, exotic beauty, celebrating them in luminous compositions and expressive sculptures, and drawing inspiration from Polynesian art and mythology.

In 1893, Gauguin was forced to leave Tahiti again and return to France for financial and health reasons. Yet Paris did not bring the success he hoped for, so in summer 1895 he decided to give Tahiti a second chance. There emerged further numbers of major paintings reflecting the artist's ideal of an untouched, mysterious realm, in which his style achieved perfection. Yet despairing of his difficult living conditions, poor health, and especially the premature death of his daughter, Aline, Gauguin attempted to take his own life – under the consequences of which he would suffer for years. In the meantime, the art world was beginning to take note of Gauguin's work. In 1900, he was able to sign a contract with the Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard that ensured him of a certain income.

Gauguin felt increasingly uncomfortable on Tahiti because it seemed too European to him – and too expensive as well. He also craved fresh impressions. So, in autumn 1901, he moved to the Marquesas Island of Hiva Oa, about 1500 kilometres from Tahiti and supposedly wilder. Despite his failing health, deep disillusionment, and further strokes of fate, his second Polynesian period brought more paintings that celebrated the cultural richness and natural beauty of the region to the point of idealization and achieved a pinnacle of aesthetic perfection.

As previously on Tahiti, in the Marquesas the artist championed the indigenous population. This led to a conflict with the colonial administration that culminated in his being sentenced to a fine and prison term. Yet before he could go to jail, Paul Gauguin died on May 8, 1903, ill, alone, and penniless, on Hiva Oa, where he still lies.

In their combination of luminous beauty and melancholy yearning, Gauguin's pictures remain as alluring and enigmatic as ever. In a fascinating way they tell of a hope in finding a lost paradise on earth, reflecting a dramatic, restless artist's life spent traveling between cultures, compelled by a love of life and despair. Although Gauguin foundered in the gap between utopia and harsh reality, the unprecedented nature of his art and the uncompromising character of his life lent him legendary status.

 Paul Gauguin
 Contes Barbares, 1902 Primitive Tales
Oil on canvas, 131.5 x 90.5 cm
Museum Folkwang, EssenPhotograph © Museum Folkwang, Essen

Paul Gauguin
D’où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous?,
Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
Oil on canvas, 139,1 x 374,6 cm
Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Tompkins Collection, Arthur Gordon Tompkins Fund
Foto: © 2015 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 Paul Gauguin
 La Vision du sermon, 1888 The Vision of the sermon
Oil on canvas, 72,2 x 91 cm
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

 Paul Gauguin
 Arearea, 1892 Joyeusetés (I)Joyousness(I)
Oil on canvas, 75 x 94 cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, bequest of Monsieur and Madame Lung, 1961Photograph © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay)/Hervé Lewandowski

 Paul Gauguin
 Parau api, 1892 Quelles nouvelles?What’s news?
Oil on canvas, 67 x 91 cm
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden Photograph by Jürgen Karpinski

 Paul Gauguin
 Femme à l’éventail, 1888 Woman with a Fan
Oil on canvas, 91.9 x 72.9 cm
Museum Folkwang, EssenPhotograph © Museum Folkwang, Essen

 Paul Gauguin
 Aha oe feii?,  Eh quoi! tu es jalouse? 1892 What! Are You Jealous?
Oil on canvas, 66 x 89 cm
The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow Photograph © The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

 Paul Gauguin
 Autoportrait à la palette, ca. 1893/94 Self-Portrait with Palette
Oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm
Private collection



Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin is born on 7 June in Paris. His father Clovis is a Republican journalist, while his mother Aline Marie is the daughter of the painter André François Chazal and the Socialist writer Flora Tristan, a Spaniard with Peruvian roots. Paul hasan older sister, Marie.1849Louis Napoléon’s coup d’étatcauses the Gauguin family to leave France and to emigrate to Peru. The father, who suffers from heart disease, dies during the sea voyage.


Aline and the two children live with a well-to-do great uncle in Lima.At the start of the civil war in Peru, the family returns to France and stays with an uncle in Orléans.1856–1864Paul is sent to boarding school because his mother has to work to support the family. In 1861 Aline moves to Paris, where she works as a seamstress. Gauguin follows in1862 but returns to Orléans in 1864for his last year of grammar school. 


Gauguin signs up as a trainee officer in the merchant navy and in 1866, by which time he is a second lieutenant, he embarks on a round-the-world journey during which he learns of his mother’s death.


He becomes a sailor in the French navy, doing his military service and traveling right up to the Polar Circle.


Disappointed by his experiences, Gauguin ends his naval career and gets a job at Banque Bertin in Paris, where he works as an investment advisor while simultaneously speculating successfully on the Stock Exchange. He starts painting and drawing in his free time. Gauguin becomes acquainted with Impressionist painting and attends a private art school, the Colarossi Academy. 


Marries Mette-Sophie Gad, a Danish woman who has been working as a nanny in Paris.


Birth of Emile, the first of the couple’s five children.Aline (*1877), Clovis (*1879), Jean-René (*1881) und Pola (*1883) are born in the years that follow. Gauguin gets to know Camille Pissarro.


A painting by Gauguin is accepted for the Salon d’Automneand he rents a studio in Montparnasse in Paris. He creates his first sculptures.


Degas and Pissarro invite Gauguin to participate in the fourth Impressionist exhibition. He continues to speculate successfully on the Stock Exchange, investing the proceeds in works by, among others, Pissarro, Manet, Cézanne, Renoir, and Monet.


Gauguin, who is by now working in an insurance agency, participates in further Impressionist exhibitions. He spends the summer holidays in Pontoise, where he and Pissarro both paint and where he also meets Cézanne.He sells some works to the Galerie Durand-Ruel for the first time.


Gauguin gives up his job as an insurance agent in order to devote himself completely to painting. The Gauguins’ financial situation deteriorates and their social decline begins.


Gauguin moves to Rouen with his family in order to live more cheaply. The hope that his paintings might sell better there is disappointed and, at Mette’s urging, he and his family move to Copenhagen to live with her parents. Gauguin works unsuccessfully as the representative of a linen company.


He has his first exhibition in Copenhagen, which closes after a few days. Gauguin quarrels with his parents-in-law and, taking his young son Clovis with him, moves back to Paris, where they are forced to live in poverty.


In search of a new naturalness, Gauguin moves to Brittany where he lives and works in the artists’ colony in Pont-Aven. He creates his first ceramic works during this period. In mid-October he returns to Paris, where he meets Vincent Van Gogh. He starts thinking about a journey to the tropics.


Mette takes Clovis back to Copenhagen. In April Gauguin travels to Panama and Martinique with his friend Charles Laval, doing several paintings and drawings while he is there. In November he returns to Paris.


Gauguin spends most of the year in Pont-Aven, working together with other painters, who acknowledge and admire him as a teacher. He moves away from Impressionism, developing the innovative painting style known as “Synthetism”, whichleads to his first distinctive masterpieces. In the autumn, he joins Van Gogh in Arles in order to work with him there. In December, following their dramatic quarrel, Gauguin goes back to Paris.


In February Gauguin returns to Brittany, where he stays until the end of the year, dividing his time between Pont Aven and Le Pouldu.He creates his first graphic works. In May, during the World Exhibition, he exhibits some of his works in the Café des artsin Paris.


Gauguin prepares to auction his paintings in order to finance his emigration. 


The money earned from auctioning his paintings at the Hôtel Drouot enables him to travel to the South Seas. In March he goes to Copenhagen to say goodbye to his family. After a farewell party with his painter friends, Gauguin leaves Paris at the end of March. In April he sets sail from Marseilles for Tahiti, where he arrives in June. Together with the young Polynesian woman Teha’amana, he lives in modest circumstances in the village of Mataiea. Tahiti does not prove to be the “paradise” Gauguin had yearned for but he nonetheless creates many of his most important paintings and sculptures there.


In the spring Gauguin suffers a heart attack and has to be taken to hospital. He sends several pictures to Europe for exhibitions but his financial situation deteriorates. 


Completely penniless, Gauguin persuades the government to repatriate him free of charge to France, where he arrives in Marseilles in August. A small legacy enables him torent an apartment in Paris. During this period, he creates further important works, not just paintings and sculptures but also woodcuts. His exhibition in Henri Durand-Ruel’s gallery is a failure. Together with Charles Morice, he starts preparing for the publication of his autobiographical story Noa Noa, which appears in 1897 in La Revue blanche. 


Gauguin spends most of the year in Brittany. He breaks an ankle in a fight and has to spend two months in hospital. On returning to Paris, he discovers thathis mistress, a Javanese dancer called Annah, has ransacked his studio, leaving only his pictures.


In February the second auction of his works takes place at the Hôtel Drouot. The sale is a disaster. Disappointed, Gauguin sets sail from Marseillein July on his second journey to Polynesia. He arrives in Tahiti in September and settles on the west coast. He again creates a large number of masterpieces.


Gauguin lives with a young Tahitian woman called Pauʼura. In the summer he has to return to hospital, presumably to undergo treatment for syphilis.


Gauguin’s daughter Aline dies, causing the definitive break with his wife Mette. Following further heart attacks, he suffers from increasingly poor health. Gauguin tries to commit suicide by taking arsenic and is admitted to hospital. He recovers only very slowly from the after-effects.


To earn money, he takes the position of draughtsman in the Land Registry in Papeete. 


Pau’ura gives birth to their son Emile. Gauguin founds a satirical monthly entitled Le Sourireand writes for a newspaper. His support for the cause of the Maori gets himi nto trouble with the colonial authorities and the Church. 


A contract with the Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard enables Gauguin to livefrom his art for the first time. 


In search of new inspiration and lower living costs, Gauguin moves in September to the Marquesas island Hiva Oa, around 1,500 km to the east of Tahiti, where he creates his last major works. He builds his hut Maison du jouir and again cohabits with a young woman. Renewed conflict with the colonial authorities follows. He paints only rarely and becomes increasingly addicted to alcohol. 


Gauguin’s poor health makes him think about moving to Spain. 


In March Gauguin is sentenced to a fine and imprisonment for having libelled the government. On May 8, before starting to serve his sentence, he dies alone in his hut in Atuona. He is buried the next day in the Catholic cemetery in Hiva Oa.


PAUL GAUGUIN  Ed. Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Raphaël Bou-vier, Martin Schwander, texts by Raphaël Bouvier, Isabelle Cahn, Lukas Gloor, Gloria Groom, Sam Keller, Martin Schwander, Alastair Wright, graphic design by Hans Werner Holzwarth English 230 pp., ca. 145 ills., 28 x 31.6 cm, clothbound € 68.00, $95.00, £55.00 978-3-7757-3959-7 | 

Unprecedented and groundbreaking—the influential art of  Paul Gauguin  A great many willful painters can be assigned to Post-Impressionism who forged their own artistic paths.  Paul Gauguin  (1848–1903), like Vincent van Gogh, is a particularly uncompromising exponent of this current. His quest for an independent ar-tistic stance and an authentic lifestyle took the former stockbroker from Paris to Brittany before deciding to travel to Polynesia. Simplified forms, expressive colors, and marked two-dimensionality characterize his seminal paintings, which are currently among the most coveted in the world. 

The representative publication traces Gauguin’s artistic development based on great masterpieces from the areas of painting and sculpture—from the multifaceted self-portraits and sacred paintings from Gauguin’s period in Brittany, and the idyllic, wistful paintings and archaic, mystical sculptures from Tahiti, to the late works from his last station on the Marquesas Islands. The volume examines Gauguin’s multilayered body of work as well as his influence on modern and contemporary artists.