Monday, March 19, 2012

Gauguin in Seattle

So, yesterday Janice and I made it down to the Seattle Art Museum to spend the afternoon wandering around in the Gauguin exhibit. I don' t know that much about Gauguin (Van Gough is more what I like in a Post-Impressionist), but it was a good chance to learn more. The results was interesting: relatively few of the pieces fitted my preconception of his art, being in bright, primary colors. Most were in subdued, washed out colors -- though it's unclear to me whether this was by intent or due to the materials available to him (he ran out of canvas early on during his first sojourn in Tahiti and had to make do with substitutes). Many could have been painted in tidewater Mississippi or along the Carolina coast. Another surprise was finding that (a) he almost always included an animal in each painting, and that (b) he was really good at plants -- often the most interesting thing about a picture wd be the snaky plants along one border, or features in the background, or the like.

But my favorite part, I have to admit, was the discovery that this exhibit was only about half by Gauguin: the other half were Polynesian artifacts -- wood carvings from Rapanui, stone tikis from the Marquesas, intricately carved bowls from Tahiti. The archeologist or paleontologist in me trumps the art appreciator any day, so these really made the exhibit memorable for me.

Best of all was getting to see a rongorongo tablet. Somehow I'd gotten the idea that there were only three of these in the world; turns out there are just over two dozen, but only a very few (three or four) with large amounts of text. No one has ever succeeded in translating rongorongo; it's the orphaned remnant of a destroyed culture. I've seen one of the huge Easter Island heads, or moai (in 2007, in the British Museum), but in a way this little dark piece of wood as just as intriguing. When we'd gotten all the way to the end of the exhibit, Janice indulged me and we went back against the current to see this one item again. Well worth it.

So, if you're in the Seattle area, and have an interest in Gauguin, in Post-Impressionists, in artists behaving badly, or in Polynesia, this exhibit is definitely worth checking out. Esp. since they've brought together items from museums around the world: you'd have to visit a lot of places to see all the things in this exhibit. Enjoy!

--John R.

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

Nice way to decorate your walls. I have never done that. My effort to beautify the walls in my house was to order big-sized canvas prints from wahooart.com, from images of western art. I use the same angel motifs in all of the rooms painted by different painters, such as this one by very interesting English artist Stanley Spencer, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LT7K6.