Gauguin at Tate Modern

Paul Gauguin's Vision of the Sermon/Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (1888)

A new exhibition at Tate Modern features the art works of Paul Gauguin. I visited this exhibition last week, and by going early managed to avoid most of the crowds.

This is a very big exhibition and covers the whole period of his paintings. Unfortunately for me, the curator has decided that instead of showing the works in chronological order they have decided to show the works by themes. To me this fails to give any idea of how the painters work developed and results in a rather chaotic show. At times there seemed to be little real reason for the groupings of paintings and other art works.

The first room was devoted to self portraits, and I felt showed that Gauguin was not a great portrait painter.

Paul Gauguin 'The Little One is Dreaming' (1881)

We then moved on to his still life paintings. In many ways Gauguin’s still life paintings had more influence on other painters than his other works. They certainly show the influence of Cezanne,  influenced Emile Bernard, Matisse and the Cubists.

A room was dedicated to his drawings, and showed how Gauguin who was primarily a studio painter, used his simplified drawings as the basis of his paintings. The next theme was Landscapes, in some ways the most successful room. Here at least one could get some idea of how his painting developed, his use of imaginative colour, and the way he integrated the local people into his paintings.

We then moved on to his Sacred paintings and here things got a bit confused, with his great Pont Aven series being mixed with his South Seas paintings. I feel that the symbolic religious paintings that he did in Brittany were some of his greatest works, and do not really mix with the Tahitian paintings.

Paul Gauguin 'Yellow Christ' (1889)

From here things got more confused, with paintings, sculptures and wood carvings from all eras being mixed up with no firm themes. There are some beautiful pieces of works, but they are mixed up higgledy piggledy with out any real reasons for their groupings.

The selection of paintings in this exhibition is very good, but I would have liked to have seen at least one work from the time he spent with Van Gogh in Arles, a short period I know, but I think of influence in his development. It would also have been nice to have been shown some works by painters who he influenced, such as Emile Bernard.

All in all I found this a strangely disappointing exhibition, which would have been so much better if the works had been shown chronologically, but still well worth visiting.

Gauguin is on at Tate Modern from 30 September 2010 to 16 January 2011. Tickets cost £13.50 (Adults) and £12 (Concs). Please visit the Tate modern website for further details.

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  1. It was rammed. I borrowed a membership card, got in free and therefore had no real right to be cross when antediluvian culture vultures poked their perms between my eyes and the pictures. Are these old crocks art lovers or are they just collection collectors? The picture descriptions were pathetically small so scrums of myopic OAPs further impeded access. Next time I’ll take a taser.

  2. Bernie Victor 29 Oct 2010

    Answer is to go early before they get up.


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