About a week ago I went to the De Young Museum in San Francisco to check out their Gauguin exhibit. Prior to my visit I was excited, because let’s not lie to ourselves, Gauguin is one of those names you gotta know if you say you’re into art. However, post-visit I was SO disappointed, that I had to walk it off at the Golden Gate Park nearby for about an hour… HECK, he had me triggered.
Dislike started creeping in the first room; it was a collection of his earlier works. Boring. Oh my god, not to sound like a spoiled brat but his works read as a stodgy bunch of nature-echoing garbage. I’ll include one here so you can see for yourself.
Anyway, then came his later works, and although I liked his color schemes and approach to primitivism, something was off. After finishing the exhibit, I am 100% certain that it was his shitty personality that was absorbed so well by his works, that even his technique and colorism couldn’t save them.
Get this: the fool marries a Dutch lady, makes two babies and dips to Tahiti. Leaves her with no money and manipulates her into thinking that what he was doing was noble and for the pursuit of something bigger and greater- art. But think about it… He left her in 19th century Europe with two children on her hands, alone. So, this poor lady was not only working all day while being paid pennies to the dollar, but HE ALSO MADE HER SELL HIS WORKS IN HER FREE TIME. As if a working woman with two kids has time for that.
It keeps coming: So, he’s just chilling in Tahiti and having the time of his life. Most definitely he is hooking up with the native women and his models, and drawing a lot of nudes. But okay, at least do that and come back home with some money to raise the kids, but no. He was so broke, the French government had to essentially buy him out of Tahiti and bring him back.
And coming: He comes back, makes more kids. Throws an expo to sell his works and it doesn’t go to well at all. With the rest of the family’s money opens up a shop and starts to paint more. Then, complains he’s tired and that he WANTS TO DIP TO THE MARQUESAS ISLANDS AGAIN. So he does. Dies there from a morphine overdose. The end.
If you wonder what this kinda guy would sound like, here is a quote:
“I think in the Marquesas, where it is easy to find models (a thing that is growing more and more difficult in Tahiti), and with new country to explore – with new and more savage subject matter in brief – that I shall do beautiful things. Here my imagination has begun to cool, and then, too, the public has grown so used to Tahiti. The world is so stupid that if one shows it canvases containing new and terrible elements, Tahiti will become comprehensible and charming. My Brittany pictures are now rose-water because of Tahiti; Tahiti will become eau de Cologne because of the Marquesas.
— Paul Gauguin, Letter LII to George Daniel de Monfreid, June 1901
So this all begs the question: Can art be separated from the artist? My answer is yes and no. I think that if the art is so monumental and inspiring and well-done that the artist’s crazy can be forgiven (ex: Picasso), then yes. But if your art isn’t that great AND you’re also not that great, then no. I wish I could be more concrete, but this is a very gray area to me, so this is all I got as of right now…
Here. These are the works I thought were beautiful BUT AGAIN IN PERSON THE ENERGY FROM THEM WAS COLD AND RANK. If you ever see this in person, make sure you pay attention to the spirit in the room as well. And if you ever do, let me know how it goes!