Inspired by the writings of Pierre Loti, and after his brief artistic venture with Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin arrived in Tahiti in 1891, on an official mission for the French Government. He was coming to Tahiti to try to conciliate his internal feelings and his works: " over there, in the silence of tropical nights, I will be able to listen to the soft music whispering the motions from my heart ".
Gauguin is one of those unique characters who turned out to be one of the greatest artists, with his endless quest to solve the crisis of " the end of Impressionism ". He was an outcast who mixed reality and literature, myth and history, and who ran away from the crowd the better to find the sources of primitive art and of the sacred among the Maohis. His ambiguous role lead him to become a legend, that he cultivated anyway in his leifetime, and which became even more fabulous after his death.
The Paul Gauguin file
His first two-year stay (1891 to 1893) was dedicated to the search that made it possible for him to later develop a new style of painting based on Tahiti's daily life and Polynesian mythology. He lived in Mataiea with a Polynesian woman named Teha’amana and accumulated notes accompanied with drawings, wood carving, photographs and in 1892 he wrote " The Ancient Maori Believes ". living in a village where the people were his models, he made efforts to render their melancholic and dreaming expression, while trying to restitute simple Maohi life.
At his return in Paris, his work generated a lot of interest among young painters, because of its originality, the decorative character of his compositions, the bright colors chosen to render feelings rather than reality. Among his former friends, some like Degas like Gauguin's painting, others like Monet and Renoir found it bad. As to Pissarro, he thought it was improper for a civilized man to plunder the myths of Oceania that he condidered as wild.
Transcribing the feelings
Gauguin ignored these criticisms and indicated that his work was the product of calculation and meditation: "through arrangements of lines and colors, I get symphonies and harmonies representing nothing truly real in the vulgar sense of the word, expressing directly no idea, but like music makes you think, without the help of ideas or images, simply through those mysterious affinities that are behind our brains and such arrangements of colors or lines. " Regarding the Impressionnists, Gauguin said: " They study color, exclusively for its decorative effect, but without freedom, and while respecting the hindrance of veracity. They search around the eye and not in the mysterious center of thought. They are tomorrow's official painters. "
In 1895, Paul Gauguin returned to Tahiti. He settled in Punaauia with Pau’ura, a 14-year old girl, but did not find again the happiness of his Mataiea days. Ill and hopsitalized in Vaiami, he considered suicide, but it it was around this time that his paintings were the most filled with serenity; regarding his painting Nave nave Mahana, Delightful Days (1896) he wrote: " It is indeed life outdoors, but however in the forest, forgotten streams, women whispering in an immense palace decorated by nature itself, with all the wealth hidden in Tahiti. Hence all the fabulous colors, the blazing but filtered and silent atmosphere. ". In 1897, he painted his painting " Nevermore ", a complex composition according to Françoise Cachin who wrote: " With Nevermore Gauguin created a classical nude which included his Tahitian model in the line of the works he admired so much: Ingres' great Odalisks or Manet's Olympia "
From 1901 until his death on May 8 1903, he lived in the Marquesas, in Atuona on the South coast of Hiva Oa, where he lived with a young female companion named Marie-Rose, and built his house on stilts " la maison du jouir (the house of pleasure) ", which included a sculpture studio, a dining room, a kitchen and, upstairs, a room and a big workshop. This house was characterized by five sculptured panels and two statues framing the door. There, he painted some twenty paintings where colors were overwhelming. In the Marquesas, his outcast character worsened. He incited the locals not to pay taxes and not to send their children to a school that only taught them evil. He was sent to court and sentenced, but nothing changed. On his house, he wrote "Te faruru": here we love. He died at age 57 in 1903, in poverty.
A precursor of Modern Art
Gauguin always tried to render the secret of exotic places, while trying through contact with forces of nature, to reach the sources of internal life: " Barbary is, for me, rejuvenating " he said. Gauguin was a precursor. He paved the way for modern art, namely fauvism and cubism, through exoticism and the shape and violence of color. While acknowledging that he owed to Pissarro his introduction to art, he distanced himself from Impressionist infliuence and gave up the accuracy of representation. He did not reproduce, he suggested. Poet Stéphane Mallarmé marveled that it could be possible to: " put so much mystery in so much brightness ".
The post-impressionnist era began with Gauguin who, this way, defined the artist's road to liberation from traditions, even from Impressionnism: " it was necessary to get dedicated body and soul to the struggle, struggle against all schools, all of them without distinction, not by denigrating them, but through something else, to stand up to not only official art, but also to the impressionists, neo-impressionists, the old and the new public… To attack the strongest abstractions, do all that is forbidden and rebuild more or less successfully, without fear of exageration, even with exageration. To learn anew, then once learned, to learn again, overcome all shyness, no matter what ridicule may result. Facing his canvas, the painter is neither a slave of the past nor of the present, nor of nature, nor of his neighbor. He is himself, always himself and still himself.. "
Tahiti was his revelator
Gauguin, who appeared here like a visionary, remained however misunderstood for a long time. While choosing Tahiti and the Marquesas, he found his ideal, he was one of those who made it possible for the Western World to discover that there were unexplored areas in art. Through his boldness and determination, he did not imitate but he created. He was a pioneer of modern spirit, this is why his works remain alive and his message is at last recognized.
In addition to his famous paintings: Tahitian Women At The Beach, Woman with Flower, Bad Spirit Amusement, The White Horse, Pape moe, Landscape with three Characters, Gauguin left some writings about Maohi culture. In 1892 " Ancient Maohi Believes " and in 1896 " Noa Noa " in collaboration with Charles Morice.
His works are scattered all over the world and exhibitions dedicated to him attract considerable crowds, who through his paintings, acquire an enticing vision of Tahitian exoticism.
Museum and grave
In Tahiti, the Gauguin Museum showcases 25 original works, several films on his life and work as well as several books about the painter. It ranks second to the Orsay Museum in Paris when it comes to exhibitions of Paul Gauguin's works. In Hiva-Oa, in the small village of Atuona, a museum features copies of Gauguin's works. You can also visit a reconstitution of " the house of pleasure " and go to cemetary to the tomb of Koke (the name given to the painter by the Marquesans).