Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gauguin, Paul

The Siesta
oil on canvas
88.9 x 116.2 cm (35 x 45 3/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA

"Do not copy nature too much. Art is an abstraction. " (Gauguin)

Gauguin considered the unself-conscious ease of native Tahitian women one of the great attractions of life in the South Seas. Here he made their unaffected grace, as one art historian aptly put it, the subject of a picture. Close examination of the canvas reveals that he labored over the arrangement of the women, correcting their profiles, eliminating another figure at the far left, and painting the basket of fruit where there once was a dog. He also changed the sarong of the dramatically foreshortened woman at the center from bright red to navy blue.

Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903) was a leading French Post-Impressionist artist.
In 1870, he began a career as a stockbroker and remained in this profession for twelve years. He was a financially successful stockbroker when he began collecting works by the impressionists in the 1870s. Inspired by their example, he took up the study of painting under Camille Pissarro. In 1882, after a stock market crash and recession rendered him unemployed, Gauguin decided to abandon the business world to pursue life as a full-time artist.

In 1891 his rejection of European urban values led him to Tahiti, where he expected to find an unspoiled culture. Instead, he was confronted with a world already transformed by western missionaries and colonial rule. Gauguin had to invent the world he sought and he interwove the images and mythology of island life with those of the west and other cultures. He lived in among the natives but his health grew poorer; An ankle he had broken in Brittany did not heal properly, and he suffered from strokes. He had to depend on menial jobs (work that is beneath a person's skills) in order to support himself. In 1901 he moved to the Marquesas Islands. He died there, alone, of a stroke on May 8, 1903.

Gauguin’s art was not popular while he was alive. After his death, he was recognized for his experimental use of colors and synthetist style that was distinguishably different from Impressionism. His greatest innovation was the use of color, which he employed not for its ability to mimic nature but for its emotive qualities. He applied it in broad flat areas outlined with dark paint, which tended to flatten space and abstract form. This flattening of space and symbolic use of color would be important influences on early twentieth-century artists. Today, he is regarded as a highly influential founder of modern art. His unusual combinations of objects and people can be seen as forerunners of the surrealist (using fantastic imagery) art of the 1920s and later.