Pricking Paul Gauguin’s Balloon

Pricking Paul Gauguin’s Balloon

Not a pleasant man? But by whose judgement? Pricking Paul Gauguin’s Balloon

Museums are reassessing the legacy of an artist who had sex with teenage girls and called the Polynesian people he painted “savages.” Source NY Times . Nov 2019 

He failed at this, he failed at that. Left his wife and family for sexual adventures in the South Seas. He fell out with Van Gogh.

Much of a painter? That’s the question. If it wasn’t for Roger Fry and the ‘Post Impressionists‘ Exhibition and the French believing their art is the best, where would he be? He came up with a new approach. He was avant-garde … maybe. But am I being too iconoclastic? Or is this a case of the emperor’s new clothes?

What really grates is his attitude in Tahiti.

Pricking Paul Gauguin's Balloon
Three Tahitian Women 1896

Already the French missionaries were making sinful the locals’ centuries old traditions including insisting that the hitherto native style of undress and relationships were forbidden.

In come Gauguin. French colonial attitude and misogynistic towards the indigenous people. As such he apparently entered into numerous sexual relationships with very young girls, marrying two and fathering many.

One of his wives, Teha’amana was 13 when he married her. Pure sexual exploitation taking advantage of his privileged Westerner status in the community. We know not what Teha’amana thought of this.

Pricking Paul Gauguin's Balloon
Only a little girl … Tehura (Teha’amana) 1891

Let’s prick the balloon of Paul Gauguin. But is that applying today’s standards on those of France 130 years ago and should we do that? Do we have that right?

‘The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there’. L P Hartley ‘The Go-Between’ 1953

Pricking Paul Gauguin’s Balloon