Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review: Gauguin Portraits at the National Gallery from 7 October 2019 to 26 January 2020

Exhibition Review: Gauguin Portraits at the National Gallery from 7 October 2019 to 26 January 2020

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The National Gallery presents the first exhibition devoted to the portraits of Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), the exhibition entitled Gauguin Portraits explores how the French artist used the portrait to examine himself and many of his friends and sitters.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The landmark exhibition features over fifty works, including major loans from museums and private collections throughout the world and features a wide range of media including sculptures in ceramics and wood,  paintings and drawings. The exhibition covers the whole of Gauguin’s artistic career from his early years as an artist through to his final visit to the South Seas.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The first room of the exhibition is dedicated to self portraits and viewers can see the artist in a number of representations from the early Self Portrait, 1885 and Christ in the Garden of Olives, 1889 where Gauguin’s isolation and lack of success fed into a sense of persecution.  Gauguin was 35 when he committed to becoming a full time artist and the portraits provide evidence of the artist constantly reinventing himself.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Room 2 marks the period he artist spent in Brittany (1884–91) Gauguin turned his back on his life as a Paris stockbroker and become a leading figure of a new artists’ colony. The room also contains portraits of some of the friends and family including Madame Mette Gauguin in Evening Dress, 1884 and Interior with Aline, 1881.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Room 3 explores Gauguin’s relationship with Vincent van Gogh and Meijer de Haan, his famous working relationship with Van Gogh ended badly in 1888.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Room 4 covers Gauguin’s first Tahitian trip (1891-3) and illustrates some of the contradictions of the artist’s life. Although he wanted to escape from ‘civilisation’, he still looked for success in the art market. He was also disappointed to find that Tahitian women were encouraged to wear modest missionary dresses like Vahine no te vi ( Woman with a Mango) 1892.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Room 5 features work completed from his return to Paris and Brittany and his second stay in Tahiti (1893–5). His Self Portrait with Idol, 1893 illustrates how often his work at this time contains distinct Tahitian imagery.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Room 6 includes a selection of portraits in which Gauguin used symbolic objects, like still lifes to remember absent friends. Van Gogh is remembered by  Sunflowers with ‘Hope, 1901.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The final room of the exhibition is devoted to Gauguin’s late portraits. They are often an indication that he had become disillusioned by his life in ‘ Paradise’ .  Local bishop, Père Paillard, is portrayed as a lecherous devil (Père Paillard, 1902,) and Barbarian Tales, 1902 sees East meeting West. His last self portrait, made shortly before the end of his life, aged 55 shows a man ravaged by illness and tormented by his lack of success.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This fascinating exhibition offers considerable insights into the life and times of Paul Gauguin the artist.  His artist career is full of contradictions, on the one hand he seeks commercial success and validation but on the other hand he wants to turn his back on ‘civilisation’ and settle in ‘paradise’.  Gauguin seemed to be an ‘outsider’ regardless of where he lived, the portraits in this exhibition seem to illustrate that he often enjoyed his status as a rebel whilst at the same time seeking reassurance from the art world.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets, visit the National Gallery website here

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