Lasting Impressionism

Tate Modern's Revealing Gauguin Exhibit

While the most daring attribute of Paul Gauguin may have once been his bold use of color, a new exhibit at the Tate Modern reveals the painter’s far more surprising shock tactics. The museum will open England’s first major Gauguin show in 50 years, featuring more than 100 works never before seen in London when it debuts in September. The artist’s Tahiti paintings showing semi-naked young women were, the show’s curators claim, a figment of Gauguin’s imagination in the late 19th century since the colony had been overtaken by missionaries by that time. “They were wearing smocks and going to church on Sundays,” says the exhibition’s curator, Belinda Thomson, who called Gauguin’s relationship with Tahitian models-mistresses “fairly exploitative.” But apart from his imaginative Tahitian exploitation, Gauguin: Maker of Myth showcases the artist’s non-colorful period with four works from an earlier period in his career featuring Jesus Christ, including one self-portrait of himself as the religious figure. “It is the ultimate bombastic or overblown statement of the artist as creator,” the curator says of the painting.