Gauguin the Alchemist, in Paris
The stunning retrospective ‘Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist’ remains on view in Paris, at the Grand Palais until 22nd January 2018. Featuring more than 200 works (paintings, ceramics, sculptures, engravings and drawings), this remarkable exhibition comprises prestigious loans and follows a chronological path: from the artist’s beginnings in Britany, his inspiration ranging from Japonism to the style of Degas and Pissarro, the exhibition culminates with the artist’s famous and controversial travels to Tahiti, Martinique, the Marquesas Islands where he reconnected with nature.
Although his work as a painter is well known, Gauguin’s prolific side (ceramics, woodwork, engravings) has been less examined and often overlooked. What Camille Pissaro described as his “bibelotage” reveals an important aspect of Gauguin’s creative process. In 1889, in a letter to Émile Bernard he talked about his “terrible longing for the unknown that drives me to madness”. His desire to explore the unknown is one of the directing attributes of his art and his life.
‘Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist’ follows the seminal Gauguin exhibition presented in 1989 at the Grand Palais. This is a second collaboration between the Art Institute of Chicago – which holds a significant number of Gauguin’s paintings and drawings – and the Musée d’Orsay – which has one of the largest collections of the artist’s paintings, ceramics and carvings in the world.
The stunning presentation shows the artist’s production in all its diversity, through the lens of recent innovative research on the techniques and materials used by the artist. He was attracted to the high level of abstraction and the decorative aspects of Oceanian art later explored in his life. Using his rudimentary Tahitian, Gauguin named his paintings in the native language, adding to their enigmatic dimension. Tahiti took Gauguin on a quest to find his true nature, an instinct suppressed by civilisation. Highlights include the very famous La belle Angèle and Femmes de Tahiti.
‘Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist’ is a must-see and one of the most significant shows on view in the world at the moment.