New Year’s Day – Gauguin: Maker of Myth

M and I have been meaning to go and see the ‘Gauguin: maker of Myth‘ exhibition at the Tate Modern for some time. The reviews have been great, the main criticism the huge crowds. With the exhibition due to finish soon these crowds were only likely to get worse. On New Year’s Eve I remembered I previous NYE when we were on a skiing holiday. Fresh snow had fallen during the night and so we had set our alarm clocks painfully early on New Year’s Day to make the most of the virgin snow. We were the first people on the slopes and it was magical – well worth the effort. Inspired by this halcyon vision, I booked us in for a 10am slot at the Gauguin on New Year’s Day. It was only slightly painful and well worth it.

The exhibition is arranged around a number of themes, such as treatment of women, or religion; and not in chronological order. For me the effect was to focus my attention not on the painting and sculpture but on the man himself – something which I imagine Gauguin would have been pleased with.

I was moved and fascinated by a great number of the paintings- particularly in the way that the colours seem to sizzle; and in the way that some of these paintings seem to open the door to artists such as Matisse.

But what really surprised me was the remorseless pursuit of his own agenda. Nothing (including a wife and five kids) would stop him pursuing the romantic primitive ideal that he seems to have got a flavour for at the colonial exhibitions that he visited in Paris, which eventually took him to Tahiti. And when he got there and found it not as primitive as he had hoped, he just painted what he had wanted it to look like, and spread syphilis in the process- classy.

A very interesting exhibition and morning out. By lunchtime a Bloody Mary and a delicious veggie breakfast at Bill‘s offset the creeping return of the New Year’s hangover. Toast and curry for dinner: not a bad start to the year.