Paul Gauguin: The Art Of Invention
Written by Carrie Edelstein
Photos Provided by the Saint Louis Art Museum
From early impressionism to iconic works and three-dimensional masterpieces: the Saint Louis Art Museum will celebrate the range of Paul Gauguin in 90 works of art to be on exhibit July 21-September 15. More than 50 pieces are coming from Copenhagen’s Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, including masterworks like the Impressionist painting “Woman Sewing” and “Tahitian Woman with a Flower,” one of the first pictures Gauguin painted on the island. Also included from Copenhagen are 20 sculptural works in ceramics and wood carvings.
“The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek holds one of the most comprehensive collections of works by Gauguin, and we are pleased to offer St. Louisans the opportunity to experience a wide range of the artist’s works lent by one of the world’s great museums,” says Brent R. Benjamin, the Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum.
The exhibition will also incorporate some works from SLAM’s own collection. Included are prints by Gauguin, as well as Polynesian sculptures and Peruvian ceramics similar to those that inspired the artist. The museum will in fact be transformed into a Polynesian paradise on July 13 for SLAM Tropic, an exotic affair celebrating the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Gauguin exhibit. Tropical cocktails, island cuisine and live music are all on the evening’s schedule.
Unique to the exhibition is Gauguin’s manuscript “Catholicism and the Modern Mind,” which was given to the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1948 by film star and St. Louis native Vincent Price.
Gauguin’s stylistic shifts and extensive range of materials will be represented in six themes within the exhibit, allowing the spectator to discover his travels within an increasingly global, 19th-century world. The first two sections highlight Gauguin’s often overlooked Impressionist paintings and showcase works from the artist’s travels between Paris, regional French towns and Denmark. Examining Gauguin’s interest in the idea of “primitivism” as an alternative to the modern world, the third section follows his travels to Martinique and Brittany, and includes polychrome woodcarvings, hand-modeled ceramics and increasingly abstract paintings.
The fourth and fifth sections focus on Gauguin’s two voyages to Polynesia and illustrate Gauguin’s mature painting style, emphasizing color, simplified forms and decorative patterns. These sections also bring focus to the kinds of local Polynesian art that inspired Gauguin, including Marquesan and Maori sculpture and Samoan tapa cloth. The final section reveals how Gauguin’s fascination with comparative religion culminated in “Catholicism and the Modern Mind,” excerpts of which can be viewed on interactive screens in the gallery.
“Paul Gauguin: The Art of Invention” is curated by Simon Kelly, the Saint Louis Art Museum’s curator of modern and contemporary art, with research assistant Abigail Yoder. The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Additional support is provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, the National Endowment for the Arts and Christie’s.
Tickets for “Paul Gauguin: The Art of Invention” are available at the museum and from MetroTix. The exhibition is free for museum members.