PAUL GAUGUIN by Bob Kessel








ET L’OR DE LEUR CORPS by Bob Kessel after Gauguin

“I close my eyes so I can see.”
– Paul Gauguin

Bob Kessel has created an art series based on Paul Gauguin.
The “GAUGUIN” series can be purchased as signed and numbered limited edition fine art prints and originals. Contact Bob Kessel for prices and availability.

Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin, born June 7,  1848 was a leading Post-Impressionist painter. His bold experimentation with coloring led directly to the Synthetist style of modern art while his expression of the inherent meaning of the subjects in his paintings, under the influence of the cloisonnist style, paved the way to Primitivism and the return to the pastoral. He was also an influential proponent of wood engraving and woodcuts as art forms.

Like his friend Vincent Van Gogh, with whom in 1888 he spent nine weeks painting in Arles, Paul Gauguin experienced bouts of depression and at one time attempted suicide. Disappointed with Impressionism, he felt that traditional European painting had become too imitative and lacked symbolic depth. By contrast, the art of Africa and Asia seemed to him full of mystic symbolism and vigour. There was a vogue in Europe at the time for the art of other cultures, especially that of Japan (Japonism).

Japonism, or Japonisme, the original French term, which is also used in English, is a term for the influence of the arts of Japan on those of the West. The word was first used by Jules Claretie in his book L’Art Francais en 1872 published in that year. Works arising from the direct transfer of principles of Japanese art on Western, especially by French artists, are called japonesque.

From the 1860s, ukiyo-e, Japanese wood-block prints, became a source of inspiration for many European impressionist painters in France and the rest of the West, and eventually for Art Nouveau and Cubism. Artists were especially affected by the lack of perspective and shadow, the flat areas of strong colour, the compositional freedom in placing the subject off-centre, with mostly low diagonal axes to the background.

Under the influence of folk art and Japanese prints, Gauguin evolved towards Cloisonnism, a style given its name by the critic Édouard Dujardin in response to Emile Bernard’s cloisonne enamelling technique. Gauguin was very appreciative of Bernard’s art and of his daring with the employment of a style which suited Gauguin in his quest to express the essence of the objects in his art. In The Yellow Christ (1889), often cited as a quintessential Cloisonnist work, the image was reduced to areas of pure colour separated by heavy black outlines. In such works Gauguin paid little attention to classical perspective and boldly eliminated subtle gradations of colour, thereby dispensing with the two most characteristic principles of post-Renaissance painting. His painting later evolved towards Synthetism in which neither form nor colour predominate but each has an equal role.

In 1891, Gauguin, frustrated by lack of recognition at home and financially destitute, sailed to the tropics to escape European civilization and “everything that is artificial and conventional.” (Before this he had made several attempts to find a tropical paradise where he could ‘live on fish and fruit’ and paint in his increasingly primitive style, including short stays in Martinique and as a labourer on the Panama Canal construction, however he was dismissed from his job after only two weeks). Living in Mataiea Village in Tahiti, he painted “Fatata te Miti” (“By the Sea”), “Ia Orana Maria” (Ave Maria) and other depictions of Tahitian life. He moved to Punaauia in 1897, where he created the masterpiece painting “Where Do We Come From” and then lived the rest of his life in the Marquesas Islands, returning to France only once, when he painted at Pont-Aven. His works of that period are full of quasi-religious symbolism and an exoticized view of the inhabitants of Polynesia. In Polynesia he sided with the native peoples, clashing often with the colonial authorities and with the Catholic Church. During this period he also wrote the book Avant et après (before and after), a fragmented collection of observations about life in Polynesia, memories from his life and comments on literature and paintings. In 1903, due to a problem with the church and the government, he was sentenced to three months in prison, and charged a fine. At that time he was being supported by the art dealer Ambroise Vollard. He died of syphilis before he could start the prison sentence. His body had been weakened by alcohol and a dissipated life. He was 54 years old.

NIGHT CAFE by bob Kessel


NIGHT CAFE by Bob Kessel after Van Gogh

“NIGHT CAFE” by Bob Kessel, based on Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, can be purchased as a signed and numbered limited edition original fine art print. Contact Bob Kessel for prices and availability.

The Night Café in the Place Lamartine in Arles is one of Vincent van Gogh’s best known paintings from his Arles period. The work depicts the interior of the Café de la Gare, an all night tavern owned by Joseph-Michel Ginoux and his wife Marie.


NIGHT CAFE by Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh often visited brothels and disreputable drinking establishments. The desolate setting of the Café de la Gare served as an inspiration for Van Gogh who wrote of the painting to his brother, Theo:

In my picture of the “Night Café” I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad or commit a crime. So I have tried to express, as it were, the powers of darkness in a low public house, by soft Louis XV green and malachite, contrasting with yellow-green and harsh blue-greens, and all this in an atmosphere like a devil’s furnace, of pale sulphur.

Vincent Van Gogh, Letter 534, 9 September 1888

The subject matter conveys a sense of loneliness and desperation. The slouched drinkers and lone figure (the owner, Joseph-Michel Ginoux) behind the billiard table, along with the skewed perspective and stark colouring, create a jarring and disturbing work. Van Gogh himself compared the tone of the painting as delirium tremens in full swing (Letter 534).

As a general rule, Van Gogh only signed the works that he felt were the most well executed. In the lower right corner of this painting Van Gogh wrote “Vincent le café de nuit”.

Paul Gauguin, Van Gogh’s friend and fellow artist, would come to live with Vincent shortly after The Night Café was painted. In fact, Gauguin himself would paint his own version. The atmosphere of the two works is quite different. In Van Gogh’s version, one finds isolation and despair, while Gauguin’s is more lively with a focus on Madame Ginoux. Gauguin wrote to Emile Bernard about his painting: ” . . . a café that Vincent likes a lot and that I like less. At bottom it’s not my sort of thing and local low life doesn’t work for me. I like it well enough when others do it but it always makes me uneasy.”


NIGHT CAFE by Paul Gauguin




“DIAMOND VAN GOGH BY GAUGUIN” by Bob Kessel, from the new art series “PAINTERS PAINTING PAINTERS”, can be purchased as a signed and numbered limited edition original fine art print. Contact Bob Kessel for prices and availability.



Gauguin’s arrival in Arles on October 23 1888 signaled the inauguration of the Studio of the South. The following two months, during which the artists lived, ate, and worked together, were marked by an intensity that van Gogh described as “excessively electric,” as they debated aesthetic influences and working methods and sought to refine and maintain their individual artistic identities. Van Gogh, who painted very rapidly, applying thick coats of pigment, preferred working from models or directly from nature.

Gauguin, on the other hand, counseled: “art is an abstraction; extract it from nature while dreaming in front of it,”

and preferred to work from memory, building up thin layers of color in a slow, methodical style.

Testing their theories, the two artists painted a number of identical motifs side by side. In the ancient Roman cemetery known as the Alyscamps, Van Gogh worked with characteristic speed, quickly producing what he called “a study of the whole avenue, entirely yellow.” Gauguin proceeded more deliberately, creating a more abstract composition featuring three Arlésiennes (women of Arles), whom he ironically referred to as “the three graces.” Later the artists produced similarly divergent results in their depictions of the proprietress of the local café: Van Gogh’s Night Café and Gauguin’s The Arlésienne (Madame Ginoux).

As winter approached, the two artists were increasingly confined to the tiny yellow house. Their aesthetic debates intensified and the tension of living and working together soon proved to be too great; Gauguin began to speak of returning to Paris. At the end of December, van Gogh, distraught, threatened Gauguin with a knife, then cut off part of his own ear. Gauguin fled, never to see van Gogh again.

TAHITIANS by Bob Kessel


2 TAHITIANS by Bob Kessel after Gauguin

“The history of modern art is also the history of the progressive loss of art’s audience.
Art has increasingly become the concern of the artist and the bafflement of the public.”
– Paul Gauguin

Bob Kessel has created an art series based on Paul Gauguin. The “GAUGUIN” series can be purchased as signed and numbered limited edition original fine art prints. Contact Bob Kessel for prices and availability.

VAN GOGH’S CHAIR by Bob Kessel


VAN GOGH’S CHAIR by Bob Kessel
apres Vincent van Gogh


apres Vincent van Gogh

Bob Kessel has a new art series “Van Gogh a Go-Go” featuring pictures like “VAN GOGH’S CHAIR” and “GAUGUIN’S CHAIR” shown above. These pictures are available as signed and numbered limited edition fine art prints. Contact Bob Kessel for pricing and availability.

The two paintings of Vincent’s and Paul Gauguin’s chairs are among the most often analyzed of Van Gogh’s works.

The colour scheme of the two chairs is, to coin a phrase, as different as night and day. Van Gogh’s chair is executed with lighter colours suggesting daylight, whereas Gauguin’s chair is presented with darker, more somber tones.

The color composition of this work is based on variations around the pairs of primary complementaries–blue and orange, and red and green. These appear in their purest form only in occasional passages, to set the keynotes for the composition. Thus the area of purest red on the paving beneath the chair is balanced by touches of green above it and by a further stroke of green on the nearest chair leg. Van Gogh stresses structure through emphatic outlines, added later, that serve to contain areas of pure painting. The strength of these increases the impact of the image, but also creates a certain tension between line and color. In distorting the perspective of the floor and the chair leg, Van Gogh imposed his own personality upon the work, stressing the subjectivity of his view.

The pipe, handkerchief and tobacco give a focus to the picture in both narrative and pictoral terms, providing a note of neutral white at the center of the interplay of cool and warm hues. The use of blue to outline the parts of the chair increases the sense of cool draftsmanship restraining the sensuous handling of the painting.

The floor tiles are painted with the waving brushstrokes that Van Gogh often used in the backgrounds of his work at this time. Short horizontal and vertical strokes alternate in a loose mesh of reds, browns and greens. The thickness of the paint used is revealed by the heavy smear from the side of the brush that is left alongside each stroke.


VAN GOGH’S CHAIR by Vincent Van Gogh


GAUGUIN’S CHAIR by Vincent Van Gogh