Gauguin Portraits, The National Gallery - ★★★★★ - Until January 26, 2020


Portraits are usually a study of the sitter but, perhaps unsurprisingly, Gauguin's are usually about himself. Even in the self-portraits we are not given Gauguin as he sees himself, but as he wants to be seen. In works like Christ in the Garden of Olives Gauguin is presenting himself as a martyr to his art and seeking to create an impression rather than delineate a reality. Studies of others are also often simply reflections of the artist's own preoccupations. The picture of his daughter, Aline, looking away from the painter and overshadowed by the Cézanne-like fruit in the foreground can well suggest her father's turning away from his family and toward his commitment to life as an artist. Similarly, the portraits of his friend, Meijer de Haan, represent not the individual as much as what de Haan came to symbolise in Gauguin's personal meditations on religion, culminating in his sinister likeness in Barbarian Tales. Whether in rural France or in Polynesia, Gauguin uses his subjects to explore his vision rather than seeking their truths. In recent times Gauguin has become a controversial figure and his life and work are bound to provoke far ranging discussions. The fascination with both is undeniable, and it is heightened by this brilliantly curated exhibition which includes Gauguin's intriguing ceramics and the stunning carving of de Haan now in Ottawa. If you see only one exhibition this year, this should be the one!

Reviewed by J.C.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆☆☆ 

WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Oct 7, 2019 - Jan 26, 2020
Sat - Thu: 10 am - 4:45 pm
Fri: 10 am - 7:45 pm
Sainsbury Wing, The National Gallery
Nearest tube: Charing Cross
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/the-credit-suisse-exhibition-gauguin-portraits

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