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Gauguin, voyage au bout de la terre

Stéphane Guégan

To flee, to always flee, to flee “the atmosphere of hydrogen gas and molasses” as Théophile Gautier used to say so nicely. To flee the stifling Salon, to flee his job as a stock market agent, to flee his family, his five children and his rigid Danish wife (“freedom is to abandon one’s family”, as Nietszche claimed). More than an Impressionist, or a Nabi or even a Symbolist, Paul Gauguin (“P. Go”, as he sometimes liked to sign) is from the school of fugitives! This book has the pleasant vertical form, a hand fan in some ways, a screen in others, and it follows the little boy from Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, where he was born in 1848, who was able to break away from the Right bank in Paris to sail off to Rio, to Martinique, and to Peru. He would gladly have chosen the latter as his adopted country – the country of his adored grandmother, Flora Tristan. But, as we know, he did not stop there, and instead sailed on further in space, to Tahiti, where he earned his living by doing the portraits of the daughters of the lawyers in Papeete, then off to the Marquesas Islands, where he died as an old, sour anarchist, but who enjoyed the pleasures of life. The author –whose name strangely resembles that of the painter’s- of course, refers to other trips, less distant but just as decisive, to Pouldu or to Arles for example. These trips also contributed to mold the huge comings and goings of modern art.

Gauguin, voyage au bout de la terre, by Stéphane Guégan, Chêne, 2017, 192 p., €29.90.

Gauguin, voyage au bout de la terre - Stéphane Guégan

Review published in the newsletter #488 - from 26 October 2017 to 1 November 2017

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