Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 2013 Newsletter: Paul Gauguin, Impressionism to Primitivism

So far, we've studied Paul Cézanne and Van Gogh as precursors to Modern Art. Another large influence was Paul Gauguin, who was part of several art movements that came to influence modern art in a big way.

Born in France to a French father and a Peruvian mother, Paul Gauguin moved around a lot and it all began when he was 18 months old with his parents and sister pulling up roots and sailing to Peru. On the way over, his father died. His mom and the two children moved in with her brother in Lima. Five years later, the threesome returned to France and moved in with his grandfather at Orléans.

At age 17 he signed up for the merchant marines and later the French Navy. Unfortunately, while out to sea his mom died. Returning to Paris at the age of 23, he got a job as a stockbroker, was able to earn a goodly amount of money and settled down with his marriage to a Danish gal named Mette Sophie.  They eventually had five children.

In 1873 when he was 25, Gauguin picked up painting as a hobby. In time he became acquainted with his future mentor, the Impressionist, Camille Pissarro. They would spend Sundays painting in Pissarro’s garden. Within a few years, Gauguin moved into a house that had room for a studio, which I'm sure, enmeshed him even further into this “hobby.”  In time, he w accepted to exhibit in the Salon d'Automne.
While learning to paint, he was also working with sculpture in marble and later ceramics.

In 1882, the French stock market crashed (globally the “Long Depression” occurred throughout the  1870s to 1890s). A year later, Gauguin lost his job and tried to make it financially by moving to Rouen. Eventually he and the family relocated to Copenhagen when his wife Mette found work as a French tutor. He took work as a sales representative. Unfortunately, the move to his wife’s native country did not go well. He didn't speak Danish and failed miserably at sales. In 1885, he felt family life was too restrictive and left for Paris.

Gauguin seemed to be an itchy-footed artist, searching for a simpler way of life.  I say that because from the time he left his family in 1885, he seemed to be always on the move:
  • 1887 Paris to Panama and then to Martinique in the French Caribbean, back to Paris
  • 1888 Brittany(School of Pont-Aven), Arles, France, back to Paris, then off to Brittany again
  • 1889 Paris, Brittany
  • 1890 Paris
  • 1891 Copenhagen to say goodbye to his family before he traveled to Tahiti. Never sees his family again.
  • 1892 Tahiti
  • 1893 Paris
  • 1894 Brittany, then Tahiti until 1901
  • 1901 Hiva Oa, French Marquese island where he died in 1903
I’m glad to be done with that as I'd rather talk about Gauguin’s art instead of his travels and turbulent relationships (he had many; he was apparently depressive, explosive and suicidal).

In his early paintings, you can see the Impressionist influences:

Bouquet of Peonies 1876
Early Work
Oil on Canvas
Private Collection

Study of Female Nude

(Etude d'une Femme Nue, Suzanne entrain de Coudre)

1880, Early Work
Submitted to 6th Impressionist Exhibit (1881)
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark

Stable near Dieppe

Oil on canvas, 1885
Private Collection

Notice in these paintings above, Gauguin was painting in the "traditional" Impressionistic manner. But then he began to rub shoulders with artists from Pont Aven in Brittany and especially his friend Émile Bernard. These artists, which became the School of Pont Aven, were exploring new territory called  Cloisonnism, whereby an artist paints flat, bold areas of color with bold outlines.  In the painting below you can see the beginning of the bold, flat colors.

Breton Woman and Goose by the Water

Breton Period, 1888
Private Collection
Gauguin was further influenced by Van Gough when he lived with him for nine weeks. Although ending turbulently, the relationship was good in the beginning. Van Gogh, hoping to start an artist colony called the Studio of the South (like the School of Pont Aven), he invited Gauguin to stay in the Yellow House in Arles, Frances. Though living with Van Gogh for only a short time, Gauguin began to use brighter colors, thicker brush strokes and more religious ideas, stemming from Van Gogh's ministry background. Conversely, Van Gogh added more line work, painted more from memory and less realistically.

Self-Portrait Dedicated to Vincent van Gogh 

(Les Misérables)

Arles Period, 1888
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Madam Roulin 
Arles Period, 1888
St. Louis (MI) Art Museum
Back in Brittany, Gauguin continued to experiment with another movement, called Synthetism. Originally, the term was used by artists to set themselves apart from the Impressionists. Actually, Cloisonnism, Synthetism and Symbolism can be lumped together--all share similar methods. In short, painting was expressed by feelings of the artist, not the object, and the aesthetics regarding line, color and form.

In the Vision after the Sermon, Gauguin tells the story of Jacob fighting an angel while the Breton women look on. Notice, also that he uses the Japanese type tree in the mid-ground (an influence of Japonism -anything Japanese in art).

Vision after ther Sermon
National Gallery of Scotland
Additionally, during this period, Gauguin created his famous, Yellow Christ--highly symbolic, religious in theme and high key (bright) in color. Compare his Self-Point with Halo below to the one he did in Arles and you may see how he was increasing his artistic expression and moving further away from traditional work to a new found freedom.

The Yellow Christ (Le Christ jaune)
1889, oil on canvas

Albright-Knox Art GalleryBuffalo, New York
Self-Portrait with Halo, 1889
Oil on Wood

Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, France
Unhappy with the bourgeoisie lifestyle of France, he left for Tahiti in 1891, searching for an idyllic world. Unfortunately, he found that the French and the Catholic church had westernized Tahiti. Still, he stayed and settled down with models and mistresses as young as 13 and 14. This is when Gauguin becomes interested in Primitivism (a movement that borrowed styles from non-Western and pre-history people). He work also meshes together all the previous movements mentioned above, excluding Impressionism.

Orana Maria (We Hail Thee Mary), 1891
First Tahiti Period

 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Are You Jealous? 1892

First Tahiti Period

 Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, Russia
In 1892, he returned to Paris and Brittany one more time, only to return to Tahiti in 1894. Within three years his only daughter, Aline died of pneumonia  He was devastated and attempted suicide. Some say his most famous and monumental piece, Where do we come from? Where are we? Where are we going? sprung from this tragedy.

Where do we come from? Where are we? Where are we going?, 1897
Second Tahiti Period, Oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA
He wanted the viewer to read the painting from right to left. The figures are set at different stages of life, beginning with a child on the right, moving across, you'll see a middle age figure  and an older woman on the left. The idol is supposed to represent the beyond.

This is a quintessential Symbolism piece as well as self-expression, opening the doors to future modern artists. It is truly a masterpiece.

In 1901 Gauguin fell into some legal problems, siding with the natives
And the Gold of their Bodies, 1901
Second Tahiti period, Oil on Canvas
Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France
versus the French authorities, so he moved to the Marquesas islands and settled in the village Hiva Oa. His last teenage mistress, Marie-Rose Vaeoho bore him a daughter in 1902. A year later, suffering from syphilis and a myriad of other ailments, he died. 

Wow! What a life. Gauguin so far has been the most complex painter we have studied. I thought Van Gogh was complicated, but this man lived in so many places, experimented with so many different methods, it was hard to keep track of what he was doing when. Just amazing.

Next month: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

What's Coming Up

Visual Journaling Class Moved to Sunday, May 19th
Due to Second Sunday landing on Mother's Day, the journaling class will move to the next Sunday, May 19th. All you need to bring is your sketchbook and $20 to cover material cost. I supply all the paper, paint, ink, glue, etc.

Glastonbury Studios:
Six-Week Classes Begin Week of June 2nd
Mark your calendars, the new classes for the first summer session will begin the week of June 2nd. I'm planning classes this time with similar themes: perspective, buildings and urban settings. Isn't it time to finally learn those pesky rules, so you can be confident when you're painting and/or drawing? Come see how easy it all is.

Tuesday evenings $70/session
7-9 p.m.
One, Two, Three Point Perspective
Come on, you know you should know this stuff. Perspective isn't as hard as you think. In fact, it can be lots of fun!! Will work from photos.

Wednesday mornings $70/session
10 to 12 noon
Sketch’n on the Go™
Urban Sketching 
We will begin in the studio and as weather permits we will begin our outdoor sketch of the Portland Metro area for the summer

Thursday evenings $80/session
6:30 to 9:00 p.m.
City Scenes
Let's explore different city scenes from Venice to New York and of course, our own sweet city of Portland. Learn how to embrace the city using classical structure, both day and night.

Second Sundays: Visual Journaling
1:00 to 4 p.m. No experience. $20

Sneak Preview
2014 Sketching Trip to England
May 24-31, 2014
"Sketching the English Village"

Chiseldon House Hotel  © Jill Jeffers Goodell
I'm putting the final touches on our sketching trip to England. We'll be staying in the lovely village of Chiseldon (dates back to Roman days) and staying at the Chiseldon House Hotel. We will sketch the village every morning from 8:30 to 11:30. After lunch you will be on your own to visit all sorts of places (from London to Cardiff, Wales), using the train which is only twenty minutes away. Or if you wish, just hang around the Marlborough Downs and visit other villages via local buses. At breakfast the next day, we can share our sketchbooks and adventures of the previous day. 

After lunch on Wednesday, for those who want to go, we will visit the market town (via local bus), Marlborough, a favorite of many royals. Lots of sketching opportunities await us there, and we must have afternoon tea at the famous Polly Tea Room.

I am estimating that the cost for an individual will be around $1500 including hotel, breakfast, lunch and tuition. Airfare is hard to predict. 

In 2012, the agent at AAA was able to find round-trip flights to Spain/Italy for as little as $900, but to be on the safe side, I am estimating $1,500 round trip. You can use the agent I use at AAA in Lake Oswego or plan your airfare yourself.  

Of course, all of this is subject to change. I am currently working on developing an itinerary and an entire travel package. It should be done by next newsletter (June). 

If you have questions now, please feel free to contact me. 

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