tue 20/10/2020

Gauguin: Maker of Myth, Tate Modern | reviews, news & interviews

Gauguin: Maker of Myth, Tate Modern

Gauguin: Maker of Myth, Tate Modern

After half a century, Gauguin returns to dazzle Britain

'Self-portrait with Manao tu papau' by Paul Gauguin © RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Gauguin has always been the poor relation in the art-legend sweepstakes. Unlike Van Gogh, there is no heartwarming story of overcoming lack of technical facility; no ghoulishly enjoyable story of genius crushed by madness. Instead, there is a story that veers from irritating to deeply unattractive: a businessman and Sunday painter, Gauguin acquired his technical skills across a range of art forms with almost insolent ease, before abandoning his wife and children in poverty to flee to ever-more exotic locales, where he lived with a succession of (in today’s terms) underage girls, some of whom he made pregnant while infected with syphilis, others of whom he rejected for being too "Western".

Gauguin has always been the poor relation in the art-legend sweepstakes. Unlike Van Gogh, there is no heartwarming story of overcoming lack of technical facility; no ghoulishly enjoyable story of genius crushed by madness. Instead, there is a story that veers from irritating to deeply unattractive: a businessman and Sunday painter, Gauguin acquired his technical skills across a range of art forms with almost insolent ease, before abandoning his wife and children in poverty to flee to ever-more exotic locales, where he lived with a succession of (in today’s terms) underage girls, some of whom he made pregnant while infected with syphilis, others of whom he rejected for being too "Western".

One of the greatest colourists the world has ever seen, a master of hot, glowing, burning works that hypnotise and bewitch

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