June 20, 2005

Was the artist Paul Gauguin a sex tourist?

That's the unromantic way to look at it:
HE romanticised himself as “a savage”, explaining and excusing his own nature. He deserted a wife, children and material security because of the conviction, shared by few, that inside him there existed a great painter. He was abusive, debauched, arrogant, derisive, intolerant, and possibly the loneliest man who ever lived. He also made most of the art of the 20th century possible....

The paintings from the South Seas look idyllic still, but in his dealings with some very young local girls Gauguin could easily be depicted as a sex tourist. He idealised nature and the “primitive” life as the only road to liberation, but even when he stood up for native rights he was as much of a colonist as any.

7 comments:

Drethelin said...

Is it meant to be surprising that yet another popular figure has a darker side?

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Typical journalistic hyperbole: "He also made most of the art of the 20th century possible." I seem to recall the names Manet, Monet, Pisarro, Cezanne, Degas, etc. I don't think Gauguin, great as he was, was indispensable amid all those others.

SippicanCottage said...
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Joe said...

From what little I know about him, I think it was more complex that that.

The lure of the South Seas was very strong, and I suppose especially on those from often dreary continental Europe.

In addition, the beauty/emptiness of the region caused many loners to go on a self-imposed exile.

Finally, sexual customs in the South Pacific were bizarre by our standards--including mothering children who were not your own, and teenage girls having relations based upon how much prestige it would bring the family.

Of course, all these sociological questions would be more interesting if the bastard hadn't left five kids behind in Europe.

Gauguin Fan said...

I'm writing a blog on Gauguin. Each post concentrates on a particular painting and how it reveals his artistic development, motivation and character.

http://gauguin-fan.blogspot.com

zercath said...
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