(National Gallery of Art) Paul Gauguin, Self-Portrait, 1889. Oil on wood. National Gallery of Art, Chester Dale Collection.
Gauguin's Mythical Work to Be Celebrated at National Gallery
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JUNE 11, 2010
National Gallery of Art

Paul Gauguin's (1848–1903) sumptuous, colorful images of women in Tahiti and beautiful landscapes of Brittany are some of the most beloved images in modern art. In the first major reappraisal of the artist's career in the United States in more than 20 years, the National Gallery of Art will present some 200 works by Gauguin, whose use of poetic narrative, myth, and fable throughout his career continues to mesmerize audiences worldwide.
Organized by Tate Modern, London, in association with the Gallery, this exhibition explores the myths behind the man: the role of Gauguin as storyteller and mythmaker through his reinvention or appropriation of narratives and myths drawn from both his European cultural heritage or from Maori legend, his use of religious and mythical symbols, and the manipulation of his own artistic identity. Gauguin explored such themes as creation, reincarnation, and life-cycle myths, the femme fatale, Venus, Eve and temptation, the nativity, and the noble savage.
Gauguin: Maker of Myth will be the first major exhibition of Gauguin's work in London since the 1955 monographic exhibition and the 1966 Gauguin and the Pont-Aven Group, both at the Tate. In the United States, Maker of Myth will be the first major exhibition since the blockbuster retrospective of 1988–1989, The Art of Paul Gauguin (National Gallery of Art, Washington; Art Institute of Chicago; Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris).
Reflecting Gauguin's remarkable breadth, the exhibition will include examples from every period (circa 1880 to 1903), medium (painting, watercolor, pastel, drawings and prints, ceramic and wooden sculpture, decorated functional objects, writings, and books), and genre (portraiture, still life, and landscape).
Gauguin was the ultimate global traveler, not just sailing the South Seas but living in Peru, Paris, Martinique, and Tahiti, among other places. The exhibition features many of his iconic paintings on loan from around the world, including those of daily village life from the artist's colony of Pont-Aven in Brittany, scenes of Christian worship in the Breton landscape, and decorative works such as the carved wooden door panels from Gauguin's hut in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, where he went to escape European civilization. Inspired by Tahiti's tropical flora, fauna, and island life, he immersed himself in its fast-disappearing Maori culture to invest his art with deeper meaning, ritual, and myth.
The National Gallery of Art is preparing a 30-minute film that will provide an overview of Gauguin's career and travels, while focusing on the myths reflected in selected paintings, sculpture, ceramics, and prints by the artist. Available in February 2011, the film can be purchased through the Gallery Shops and will be shown on PBS stations.
The guest curator of the exhibition is Belinda Thomson, independent art historian and honorary fellow at the University of Edinburgh. The coordinator in Washington is Mary Morton, curator of French paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington. In addition to Thomson, contributors to the fully illustrated exhibition catalogue are Philippe Dagen, Amy Dickson, Charles Forsdick, Tamar Garb, Vincent Gilles, and Linda Goddard.
Read more details about the National Gallery of Art and this exhibition: www.nga.gov/