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Gauguin’s ‘own persona’

23 August, 2019 — By John Evans

Paul Gauguin, Self-Portrait as Christ, 1890-1891, oil on canvas, 38.1 x 45.7cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Acquired by the Musées nationaux with the participation of Philippe Meyer and a Japanese patron, co-ordinated by the newspaper Nikkei, 1994 (RF 1994-2). © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / René-Gabriel Ojéda

A“FIRST” exhibition devoted to the portraits of Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) will open in October.

Its aim is to show how the artist famous for his paintings of French Polynesia, “revolutionised” the portrait. Though he was fully aware of the Western portrait tradition, the National Gallery says, Gauguin was rarely interested in exploring his sitters’ backgrounds or status.

Its director Gabriele Finaldi, says: “This is the first time that an exhibition focuses on portraits by Gauguin. Never a conventional portrait painter, his radical, highly personal vision led to the creation of a group of works that are striking, moving and at times disturbing. Through paintings, prints, sculptures and ceramics the exhibition explores how he defined his own persona in his self-portraits and how he fashioned the images of friends, lovers, and associates.”

And his self-portraits show Gauguin in various guises (see above). His work is seen as far-reaching and as an influence on, for example, Matisse and Picasso.

The show will feature more than 50 works – paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings – and include loans from Paris, Washington DC, Chicago, Tokyo and major collections in Canada and Belgium.

It will also look at Gauguin’s attempts to break with European tradition, with his “savage” or “primitive” approach and revisit the controversies centred on his work and activities in the South Pacific.

• The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Gauguin Portraits is at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, from October 7 to January 26. For advance tickets visit: or call 0800 912 6958 (booking fee).


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