Gauguin the alchemist: the hidden face of a self-portrait

Through the masterpieces of the master exhibited in the framework of Gauguin the alchemist, the Grand Palais will emphasize its work of matter and its process of creation. Who is behind the Painting Portrait of the Artist, painted during a winter of the late nineteenth century?

At first glance, Portrait of the artist, which Paul Gauguin painted during the winter of 1893-1894, is a simple self-portrait. But we must go beyond appearances, know its genesis and context in order to appreciate its full value.

At the time, Gauguin just returned from his first trip to Polynesia. Problem: his Tahitian work, his painting "of savage" as he calls it, does not meet the expected success.

Through this self-portrait, Gauguin finds a way to respond to criticism: he claims his rebellious spirit with a face with features full of rudeness, accentuated by the simplicity of the touch and the rough material of the canvas.

He represents himself in his new studio in the colors of Polynesia, with a yellow and blue pareo.

An emblematic picture of a key period for Gauguin

One more detail: on the back of the painting he paints the hallucinated face of his friend William Molard, a Wagnerian musician close to the artists of Montparnasse and especially Strindberg or Durio, who played a major role in spreading Gauguin's works.

A double-sided painting, therefore, emblematic of a key period, at the turn of the century, which announces the introduction of primitivism into the European cosmopolitan avant-garde.

From the collection of the Musée d'Orsay, Portrait of the artist is one of Gauguin's works - more than 200 in total (paintings, ceramics, wood carvings, drawings, prints ...) - presented in the framework of Gauguin l ' Alchemist at the Grand Palais, from October 11, 2017 to January 22, 2018: a chronological exhibition that allows us to measure the diversity and complementarity of the artist's creations, as well as his ability to make the most of each medium.

Céline Baussay


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