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Paul Gauguinsteries of Paradise

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 12:28 AM
Gauguin combined his critical eye and powerful line with a taste for caricature as in this striking self-portrait. Religious emblems are in generous supply: a halo hovers above Gauguin's head, he holds a snake in his right hand, and the apples of the Garden of Eden hang beside him. These biblical symbols of good, evil and temptation are set in a decorative framework.
The exotic culture of the South Sea Islands held a powerful fascinatio  for Gauguin, who chose strange, vivid colours to express the beauty and the mystery he experienced there. 

Paul Gauguin was in his early twenties when he took up painting. At first art was no more than a hobby, but he admired and bought the work of the early Impressionists, and based his own style on theirs. As his dedication grew, however, Gauguin soon realized that although these artists, with their bright colours and bold technique, had freed painting from traditional bonds, Impressionism too was limited in scope. Gradually he moved forward to develop the ideas that made him with Van Gogh and Cezanne one of the greatest of the Post-Impressionist artists. 

The Impressionists had painted the natural world with vividness and directness. But Gauguin was fascinated by ideas more than appearance and wanted his art to express strong emotions: 'Where does the execution of a picture start, where does it end? At the moment when intense feelings are found in the depth of one's being, when they erupt, and thought flows forth like lava from a volcano. Cold and rational calculation have nothing to do with this eruption, for who knows when, in the depths of his being, the work was begun, perhaps unconsciously?' To express such intensity of feeling, Gauguin had to develop a radically new style of painting. 


This decorative image, with its simplified shapes and intensified colour, evokes the relaxed, unhurried life which Gauguin sought in the South Sea Islands. He rejected the idea that a painting had to represent something we can see in the real world, and drew fresh inspiration from non-European art Gauguin was one of the first artists to take a serious interest in 'primitive' cultures. He spoke of his own 'savage blood', and, perhaps recalling his childhood in Peru, he felt a strong affinity for the vigour of prehistoric Central and South American art. He saw numerous examples of this type of work at the Paris World's Fair of 1889. 

 REVOLUTIONARY COLOUR


Gauguin also looked for inspiration to Egyptian and Cambodian sculpture, to medieval art and to Japanese prints. He collected postcards of painting and sculpture in a way that is now commonplace among artists and students, but which at the time was novel. In the expressive power of his colour, however, Gauguin went beyond any of his sources. The Vision after the Sermon, one of his most revolutionary paintings, used bright red completely unnaturalistically to set the emotional tone of the painting one of visionary intensity. 


The pivotal figure in Gauguin's allegorical life-cycle reaches up for fruit. Though the action repeats Eve's in the Garden of Eden, the fruit is a mango, not an apple.
The Vision after the Sermon was painted at Pont-Aven, where Gauguin briefly inspired a group of like-minded artists. But his personal style reached its fullest flowering in Tahiti. Gauguin's taste for religious and symbolic themes was richly sustained by the native traditions; the bright light produced the strong colours he loved; and the exotic beauty of the islanders made an over-whelming impact on him. He thought that his native models 'possessed something mysterious and penetrating, not beauty in the strict sense of the word. They move with all the suppleness and grace of a sleek animal, giving off that smell which is a mixture of animal odour and the scents of sandalwood and gardenia.'


A Quaker preacher, Hicks made over 100 versions of his vision of brotherly love.
One of the most characteristic features of Gauguin's work in Tahiti is his use of flat, frieze-like compositions, in which he was perhaps influenced by Egyptian art. This kind of corn-position, in which Gauguin's imposing figures 'indescribably august and religious in the rhythm of their gestures' are arranged across the foreground, with little sense of depth, creates a mood of solemn majesty.
 

Gauguin's technique in the Tahiti paintings was no less distinctive than his composition. Materials were not easily available, so he often had to use coarse sacking rather than proper canvas, spreading his paint thinly to make it go further. From adversity he extracted inspiration, for the limitations of his materials forced him to paint with a rough vigour appropriate to his bold vision.
  
IMPACT ON MODERN ART

The complex composition of Where Do We Come From? Is, in fact, a combination of several previous paintings? The crouching woman and 'strange white bird' in the left-hand corner also appear in this picture of the legendary character Vairumati, which Gauguin had painted earlier in the year.When Gauguin died in 1903, very few people would have agreed with his words in a letter to his wife: `I am a great artist and I know it. It is because I am, that I have endured such suffering.' Three years after his death, however, 227 of his works were shown in a major exhibition in Paris; this firmly established his reputation among more progressive artists and his subsequent influence on 20th-century art has been immense. The emotional impact of his work and his complete dedication to art whatever the cost in personal suffering have made him, like his friend Van Gogh, one of the cult heroes of modern times. 





Writer – Marshall Cavendish
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