From MoMA to Matthews: Gauguin’s Metamorphoses

Paul Gauguin - Mahana No Atua - Matthews Gallery Blog

Paul Gauguin, The Day of God (Mahana No Atua), woodcut

There’s no record of what Paul Gauguin’s last lover Marie-Rose Vaeoho thought of him, but their courtship must have been rough. By the time Gauguin reached the Marquesan island of Hiva Oa in 1901, he had eczema, syphilis, malaria, tooth rot, a heart condition and a very bad liver. Local teen Marie-Rose gave birth to his daughter in September of 1902, and he died on May 8, 1903. Gauguin’s body was already rotting in the tropical heat during the burial.

This distasteful finale is an ill-fitting epilogue to Noa Noa, Gauguin’s fanciful (and mostly false) account of his early travels in Polynesia. The artist’s twilight years may have been ruled by destruction and decay, but he clung to themes of rebirth, transformation, divinity and utopia in his art and writing. The New York MoMA’s new exhibition Gauguin: Metamorphoses centers on woodblock prints and other works on paper that he produced between 1889 and the time of his death. At Matthews Gallery we have two Gauguin woodblock prints from the same period that he made to accompany his Noa Noa memoir.

From MoMA:

 These remarkable works on paper reflect Gauguin’s experiments with a range of mediums, [including] radically “primitive” woodcuts that extend from the sculptural gouging of his carved wood reliefs […]. Gauguin’s creative process often involved repeating and recombining key motifs from one image to another, allowing them to evolve and metamorphose over time and across mediums.

For Gauguin, the printmaking process was a natural extension of this mercurial philosophy. It allowed him to mirror and tweak imagery between prints and even in different runs of the same print.

 In New York, you can see several versions of Gauguin’s Noa Noa woodblock prints. In Santa Fe, come track the evolution of the series through two of our works. Here’s a peek—

Paul Gauguin- Mahana No Atua- Woodblock print and painting- Matthews Gallery Blog

The Day of God (Mahana No Atua), our woodblock print and the painting

Our woodblock print and its oil counterpart were created around the same time and are close mirror images of each other. Both show three women on a shore with a Polynesian sculpture (based on carved Buddhist reliefs from Java) rising above them. In the painting, our eyes are drawn to the bright colors and wild abstract forms of the water. In the print, the women and the statue stand out as bold graphic elements, highlighting the symmetry of the composition.

Gauguin’s decision to reverse the composition from one work to the other brings up some interesting interpretive questions. The three women in the foreground may represent birth, life and death. If their positions can be so easily flipped, perhaps life’s course isn’t so linear either. Viewed together, the works form a loop that reflect Buddhist beliefs concerning rebirth.

Paul Gauguin- LUnivers Est Cree- 5 Versions- Matthews Gallery Blog

Five versions of Paul Gauguin’s L’Univers Est Cree, including ours (center)

We’ve written about our version of L’Univers Est Cree on the blog before, but Gauguin, his son Pola and artist Louis Roy made several print runs from the block. Some are crisply defined and others are murky with only a few details clearly in view. Some incorporate bright reds and yellows, while others are starkly monochrome.

When Gauguin presented his Noa Noa prints in a private studio show in Paris in 1894, he hung several versions of each print. The decision seems like the artist’s acknowledgment of his futile struggle to embrace a paradaisical version of his island experiences. As scholar Alaistar Wright puts it, the repeated, ever-changing images “allowed him to reflect on the impossibility of having any authentic experience in his dreamed-of Polynesian idyll.”

Visit us at Matthews Gallery to see Paul Gauguin’s incredible woodblock prints. To learn more, read our blog post about “L’Univers Est Cree” and listen to Lawrence’s accompanying podcast.  For daily gallery news, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

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CURATE THIS, CURATE THAT: Place your votes!

Collectors-Choice-Social1

The selection process for our social media-curated show COLLECTOR’S CHOICE is underway, and fans on Facebook, Instagram, TwitterTumblr and other networks have placed their votes. It’s time for some tie breakers on WordPress! Check out the match-ups below and vote for your favorites in the comments section. From January 31 to February 5, we’ll unveil your selections in the gallery and online.

JAMIE CHASE

Jamie Chase- Collector's Choice- Matthews Gallery blog

ROUND 1! Jamie Chase is known for his figurative work like image #1, and also his abstracted landscapes like #2. Which one should appear in the show? Take the curatorial reins!

WILLIAM LUMPKINS

William Lumpkins- Collector's Choice Show- Matthews Gallery Blog

Do you prefer William Lumpkins‘ careful watercolor brushstrokes (#1) or experimental wild felt-tip pen marks (#2)? Read more about the influential Santa Fe modernist here before you decide…

KATE RIVERS

Kate Rivers- Collector's Choice Show- Matthews Gallery

Curate this! Should we feature a Kate Rivers book collage in the show, or one of her nests? Read about her mixed media work in this blog post, and vote for #1 or #2 in the comments.

HANNAH HOLLIDAY STEWART

Hannah Holliday Stewart- Collector's Choice- Matthews Gallery Blog

These tall, spindly bronzes might be very different, but they’re both by powerhouse feminist sculptor Hannah Holliday Stewart. Figurative or abstract? Curate that!

PAUL GAUGUIN

Paul-Gauguin-Collectors-Choice

Two Tahitian myths inspired these woodblock prints by Paul Gauguin. Which do you prefer? Read about them in this blog post, and vote now!

Thanks for participating in COLLECTOR’S CHOICE! To place your vote on other social networks, connect with us through the links on our About Page.

LEGENDS OF THE LOTS: Matthews Gallery Online Art Auction

March Chagall- L'Opera Poster (1964)- Matthews Gallery auction
L’Opera Poster, Marc Chagall

We’re very excited to announce the European Masters, American and Southwestern Art Auction, an online-only Matthews Gallery event running July 25-29. It’s our very first auction, and we’ve been working on it for more than a year. Of course, the works we’re putting on the block have stories behind them that are much older than that. Click here to browse the diverse catalogue, and read on to learn the legends behind four of the lots.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec- La Passagere du 54- Matthews Gallery auction
La Passagere du 54, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Lautrec was on a steamship cruise from Le Havre to Bordeaux when a beautiful woman who was staying in cabin 54 caught his eye. He became infatuated with her but she was so aloof that he never got a chance to introduce himself. Lautrec refused to disembark until the ship reached Lisbon, where his friend Maurice Guibert finally dissuaded him from sailing on to Dakar, the mystery woman’s destination. The sketches he made of her on the boat would inspire La Passagere du 54.

Lithograph, on wove paper, Wittrock’s third (final) state, the full sheet, with green lettering. 

Click here to see this work in the catalogue.

Joan Miro- Dog Barking at the Moon- Matthews Gallery auction
Dog Barking at the Moon, Joan Miro

This lithograph has one of the longest titles of any of Miró’s art works. In french it is: “Le chien aboyant à la lune reveille le coq le chant du coq picote le crane du fermier Catalan posé sur la table à coté du pourron”. In English: “The dog barking at the moon wakes the cock, the song of the cock pecks at the head of the Catalan farmer resting on the table by the flask of wine”. Joan Miró (1893-1983) was a leading pioneer and proponent of surrealism. His work has a childlike style that at its heart is a sophisticated play of color, line and forms. Miro was a consummate master printmaker and over his lifetime he completed more than 1,000 fine art prints.

Lithograph in colors, number 12 from the edition of 80.

Click here to see this work in the catalogue.

Pablo Picasso- Untitled (From the 156 Suite, 16 mai 1971)- Matthews Gallery auction
Untitled (From the 156 Suite, 16 mai 1971), Pablo Picasso

Degas visits a brothel in this etching by the legendary Spanish modernist.

Number 23 from the edition of 50.

Click here to see this work in the catalogue.

Paul Gauguin- Mahana Atua (Noa Noa woodblock)- Matthews Gallery auction
Mahana Atua, Paul Gauguin

Gauguin sailed from France to Tahiti in 1891 and didn’t return home until two years later. He went there in search of an untouched beauty far away from “everything that is artificial and conventional”. Upon his return to Europe, he carved a series of ten woodblocks to illustrate a written account of his travels called Noa Noa. The prints, which were only his second attempt at printmaking, are considered some of his most innovative work. “Gauguin’s current effort will tomorrow provoke a complete revolution in the art of printmaking,” wrote critics Julien Leclerq and Charles Morice. This is presumed to be a proof apart from the signed and numbered edition of 100 published by the artist’s son, Pola Gauguin in Copenhagen in 1921.

Woodcut, 1894-5, on chine

Click here to see this work in the catalogue.

Make sure to check out the entire auction catalogue here, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for more legends behind the lots!

HOW TO BE AN ARTISTIC GENIUS: Go bonkers.

Gustave Courbet- Self-Portrait (The Desperate Man)- Matthews Gallery blog
Gustave Courbet, Self-Portrait (The Desperate Man)

We all know that Vincent Van Gogh left this world with 1.5 ears and a (probably) self-inflicted gunshot wound in his chest, but when you go on a hunt for the craziest artistic geniuses, the fou-roux starts seeming positively rational.

After all, Michelangelo was so averse to bathing or changing his clothes that his long-suffering assistant once wrote, “He has sometimes gone so long without taking (his shoes) off that then the skin came away, like a snake’s, with the boots.” The Renaissance master would wander off in the middle of conversations and refused to attend his brother’s funeral.

Gustave Courbet went a little nuts after he tangled with the French government and exiled himself to Switzerland, painting several “self-portraits” of bleeding, mangled fish. You surely have to be a bit bonkers to drive so many lovers insane, so Pablo Picasso deserves a spot in the art sanitarium as well. Then there’s Paul Gauguin, who made up romantic, insanely elaborate lies about his dismal trips to Tahiti.

Lesser-known prodigies only suffer more, it seems. French painter Leon Bonvin was found dangling from a tree after a dealer refused to show his paintings. Dutch artist Abraham van der Doort, who was Charles I’s art conservationist, thought he’d lost one of the king’s favorite pieces and offed himself. Dutch painter Herman Kruyder ended it all in a psychiatric ward, and Polish writer Stanislaw Ignacy Witkierwicz fed his lover poison and slit his wrists after the Second Army invaded Poland.

Does true artistic brilliance come hand in hand with insanity? Perhaps to see things in revolutionary ways, you have to take a trip off the edge. What do you think? Join the discussion on our Facebook and Twitter pages, or in the comments section below.