Gauguin: Maker of Myth
It was the financial crisis of 1882-83 that propelled Paul Gauguin out of his job as a stockbroker and into full-time pursuit of art. He chased his muse—abandoning his wife and five children—from France to Copenhagen, from Panama to Martinique, and from Brittany to Arles (with his tormented friend, Van Gogh), although it was his Tahitian refuge that we most associate with him: those dark dreaming women, ripe falling fruit and rampant spiritual syncretism.
But this, the first major exhibition of Gauguin’s work in London since 1955, will argue that, rather than the south seas liberating a hidden and repressed Gauguin, the seeds of his break with impressionism and bold experiments with colour, plane and subject were there from early on. Gauguin’s plundering of art history and penchant for self-mythologising have made him a complex figure to love or interpret. His restless exploration of sculpture, ceramics, drawing and painting and prolific production of letters, memoirs and journalism, make tracing the courses of his imagination particularly arduous. But this show at Tate Modern (he becomes the earliest artist yet to have been so honoured) aims to establish his radical originality. Expect queues round the block.