TAHITIANS APRES GAUGUIN by Bob Kessel
VAN GOGH BY 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.