ART lecturer Barry Gibb presents a talk on Paul Gauguin; artist of the South Seas at 7pm next Thursday at the main gallery of Ann Bryant Art Gallery.
Gauguin is known generally as the artist who left his family to follow his dream of living and loving among the primitive societies on the islands of the South Pacific.
His life in the tropics was the inspiration for Somerset Maugham’s, The Moon and Sixpence. But in art history he is known as one of the greatest pioneers of modern art, a vital part of the late 19th-century post-impressionist rebellion.
Reacting to the meaningless, nebulousness of impressionism, he looked back to the art of primitive and ancient cultures where artists produced images that impacted on society with social and religious messages, or icons to be worshipped, as in the art of ancient Egypt or early Christian/ Byzantine iconography or in the stain-glass of Gothic cathedrals, all with outlined, conventionalised figures and flat, symbolic colours. With these influences he produced what he called his Synthetism. He started as a naval officer for adventure, then settled to become a stock-brokers clerk; married and started a family in Paris. But he was forced to move to his wife’s family in Denmark when the stock market collapsed. He soon broke loose from what he found to be a suffocatingly bourgeois environment, to become an artist in Paris, where he often starved and suffered, once accepting an offer by Theo Van Gogh to live with his brother, Vincent.
He did in a stormy relationship.
But he found revitalisation in Brittany at Pont Avon where among the Breton peasants with their simple faith, he found an atmosphere in which he was inspired produce meaningful image. He soon acquired a group of followers with links to the symbolic poets. Successful at last, around 1890, he headed for the South Seas. This impetus came largely from his nostalgia for the scenes, smells, colours and sights of his early childhood in Peru and his dreams of exotic ancient civilizations which were inspired by statuettes and artefacts from these places.
For more on this intriguing story, join Gibb at the Ann Bryant next week. Wine and fruit juice will be available for a small donation.