It’s an interesting look at a former impressionist who predates Matisse in his use of colour and the surface plane of the canvas. Murkier than the great colourist or even Van Gogh en masse, the subject matter was also a bit more, er, limited? A tiny tad “one note’, shall we say? All T & A, or, for variety, T or A. As my lovely companion observed, the arses follow you around the room.
There’s a hilarious schizophrenic collision of what the gallery wants you to focus on through their high-tone wall texts, and the glaring obviousity that Gauguin was a white bourgeois having much fun with the native girls of Tahiti and the Polynesian South Seas whilst away from his Parisian home.
Overwhelmingly comprising paintings of naked and half-clad dusky women, the exhibition provides a slightly disturbing portrait of a white man immersing himself in the local “colour” and enthusiastically dipping his paintbrush at the drop of a lei. As if Gary Glitter, having spent happy times in Indo-China, produced an oeuvre of work recording the musical delights of his exploits for our delectation.
Gauguin, the double of Alfred Molina (who played him in a recent TV biopic), sought the pagan but initially found the missionary position as the Christian missionaries got there before he did, arming the islanders against their own innocent sexuality with biblical tracts in a process some call civilising and others might think was bloody imperialist cheek. Gauguin made the reverse journey, recreating primitivist fantasies of a lost age in his art. He morphed from bourgeois banker to “savage” … and he did it very well.
In the last room we were most gobsmacked to learn that Gauguin died of syphillis. WHAT??? Yer kiiiiddiiiing! I’d’ve thought him more likely to have been hit by an Acme piano dropped from a great height by Wile E. Coyote.
But here’s Derek & Clive putting it far more eloquently than I ever could. (Phooey to the purists who point out that this is actually a Pete ‘n’ Dud routine.)
Admission: Adult £13.50.
Runs until 16 Jan. Sun-Thu 10.00-18.00. Fri & Sat 10.00-22.00. Closed 24-26 Dec.
Telephone: 020 7887 8888.
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