National Gallery London Gauguin Portraits

National Gallery London Gauguin Portraits

National Gallery London Gauguin Portraits: As the art critic Waldemar Januszczak recently wrote in one of the ‘Sundays’ on the ‘usual artists’ ‘So here we all are (the reviewers and critics) pedalling round the same racetrack, seeing the same events, coming to similar conclusions, in the same order. It’s ghastly, and it’s anti-art. So how to break out of it?’

That’s what I thought about the National Gallery’s Gauguin Portraits exhibition – before I entered. So I took a different stance.

Paul Gauguin – Self Portrait

Rather than simple wander around, using the usual 27.8 seconds viewing each picture, I decided to rather take in just a few of the works and make a comparison of Gauguin’s earlier works immediately against those of his work in Pont-Aven and eventually Polynesia.

Gauguin‘s story is well known and I’ll not repeat it here. I simply want to drawn a comparison by referring the reader to a few of the main works on display at the National Gallery.

Mette in Evening Dress 1884. Gauguin’s wife. Traditional, formal approach. Capturing the image as presented. Not exactly ‘Salon’. Influence of Impressionist style
Interior with Aline 1881. Gauguin’s child. Similar approach. Nothing remarkable. A ‘Sunday’ afternoon’ work – as indeed it was.

Gauguin then moves to work in Brittany and Arles:  note how his style changes. Gauguin now paints as the mood takes him, breaking away from Impressionism and indeed ‘Academic’. “They heed only the eye and neglect the mysterious centres of thought” “Away from superficiality and full of affectations”.

Portrait of Madam Roulin 1888
National Gallery London Gauguin Portraits
Young Breton Girl 1889


And in Polynesia, an even greater difference in style.

National Gallery London Gauguin Portraits
Faaturuma (Melancholic) 1891
National Gallery London Gauguin Portraits
Vahine no te vi 1892. This is a picture of Gauguin’s Polynesian wife Teha’amana. Passive, melancholic and servile

The National Gallery, as ever provides a fascinating insight into particular artists and movements. Pictures hanging in close proximity to one another, it’s a pleasure and exciting journey to make comparisons.