28 de setembro de 2011

Paul Gauguin - Nevermore

Nevermore - 1897
Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery - London
Paul Gauguin was a leading French Post-Impressionist artist. He was an important figure in the Symbolism movement as a painter, sculptor, print-maker, ceramist, writer, influential wood engraving and woodcuts art forms. He was a man of deep emotions and he was always searching for answers to his spiritual needs, using painting as a means of resolving his inner questions. Gauguin sought to establish a style that would express emotion and feeling in a modern way. In 1891, Gauguin sailed toFrench Polynesia to escape European’s civilization and “everything that was artificial and conventional". After coming back to France, in 1895, he returned definitely to Tahiti after a difficult period in Paris where his work was not successful. By that time he produced a number of large paintings including Nevermore, which was prompted by the death of his daughter Aline. 
Nevermore is a long painting, with little perspective dept. On the background, includes a familiar motif of two people whispering, and a raven, suggesting misfortune. The bird brings to mind the poem The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. which Stéphane Mallarmé recited at the Café Voltaire when Gauguin left Paris. In the poem, a man imagines that the bird flapping at the window repeating the word “nevermore” is the spirit of the dead lover.

The picture is dominated by a full length reclining Tahitian nude. The girl faces the viewer but her body is not for erotic consumption as in the tradition of Western painting. The curve of her hip is exaggerated, strangely distorted and elevated. Her eyes are open but she does not look at us. Her attention seems to be turned towards the figures and the raven in the background. Are they fragments of her imagination? The picture is pieced together so as to suggest reality and also, at the same time, to deny it. There is no answer. To make true contact with the picture we need to leave the world of cut and dried reality and enter the world of half suggested, dreamlike, unreality and give way to sensuality much as one is inclined to do when listening to romantic music. Gauguin was not interested in painting external reality, and this is one of the reasons why he quarreled with Van Gogh who held the opposite point of view. Gauguin’s priority was his inner vision. He once wrote:

"in painting as in music one should look for suggestion rather than description".

The space in the picture is articulated more by a combination of decorative panels than by an illusion of three-dimensional space. The figures and bird in the background could be real but they could also be figures painted on to a screen. This ambiguity is intentional. Gauguin’s aim was to fill the picture with mystery. The melancholia and implied threat in the painting is an indication of Gauguin’s unstable state of mind. Later, that year, he unsuccessfully attempted suicide.

The transitions between reality to unreality are also a central thread in Gauguin’s life history. He abandoned his European life, wife, family, stock broking and Parisian Bourgeoisie respectability and game himself up to art, poverty, illness and lack of recognition. In Tahiti he lived with a teenage Tahitian girl and described the women of the island as possessing something mysterious and penetratin.
In recent years, Gauguin had been the subject of much criticism for this painting. Yet it is difficult to view the past and the complex social structure of another culture from a 21st century perspective. It is perhaps too easy to criticize his “primitive” nudes as misogynist. Gauguin told Strindberg that "It is the “Eve”, of the Western imagination,  that makes men misogynists. Only the “primitive Eve” is naturally naked".
Source: Wikipedia, Wendy Osgerby, net

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