Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Paul Gauguin: "An Artist Who Had Sex With Teenage Girls"

Farah Nayeri wrote in the New York Times Arts section article (November 18, 2019) "Is It Time Gauguin Got Canceled?: Museums are reassessing the legacy of an artist who had sex with teenage girls and called the Polynesian people he painted “savages.”":

“Is it time to stop looking at [Paul] Gauguin altogether?”

That’s the startling question visitors hear on the audio guide as they walk through the “Gauguin Portraits” exhibition at the National Gallery in London. The show, which runs through Jan. 26, [2019] focuses on Paul Gauguin’s depictions of himself, his friends and fellow artists, and of the children he fathered and the young girls he lived with in Tahiti.

The standout portrait in the exhibition is “Tehamana Has Many Parents” (1893). It pictures Gauguin’s teenage lover, holding a fan.

The artist “repeatedly entered into sexual relations with young girls, ‘marrying’ two of them and fathering children,” reads the wall text. “Gauguin undoubtedly exploited his position as a privileged Westerner to make the most of the sexual freedoms available to him.”

Born in Paris [...] He took up painting in his 20s, while working as a stockbroker, a profession he would soon give up — along with his wife and children — to make art full time. He set sail for Tahiti in 1891 [...] Gauguin spent most of the 12 remaining years of his life in Tahiti and on the French Polynesian island of Hiva Oa, cohabiting with adolescent girls, fathering more children, and producing his best-known paintings.

[Unsurprisingly] [i]n the international museum world, Gauguin is a box-office hit. There have been a half-dozen exhibitions of his work in the last few years alone, including important shows in Paris, Chicago and San Francisco.

Nine labels were changed to avoid culturally insensitive language, according to the museum’s press office [...] [For example] his “relationship with a young Tahitian woman” was changed to “his relationship with a 13- or 14-year-old Tahitian girl.”

[...] out of 2,313 feedback cards submitted by visitors at the Canadian exhibition, [only] about 50 were complaints about Gauguin and about the museum programming.

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