Paul Gauguin: The Breakthrough Into Modernity
Text by Agnieszka Juszczak, Heather Lemonedes, Belinda Thomson.
In 1889, Paris hosted the legendary Exposition Universelle (World's Fair), a massive cultural exhibition which transformed the face of French culture to come. The Eiffel Tower was built for it, the composer Claude Debussy first heard Javanese music there, and the painter Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), reacting against his exclusion from its arts component, organized an exhibit called L'Exposition de Peintures du Groupe Impressionniste et Synthésiste, on the walls of the Café Volpini, presenting the newest works by himself and his friends. It was the moment at which he "became Gauguin," for it was here that he premiered what is now known as the Volpini Suite, an amazing portfolio of 11 lithographs printed on radiant canary yellow paper, which marked the coalescence of his motifs (the fruitbearers, the mourning Eve, the woman in the waves) and the commencement of his mature style. The Suite also gives a chronicle of Gauguin's travels in Martinique, Brittany and Arles, and records the constellation of the Pont Aven group. Gauguin reconstructs this landmark exhibition, demonstrating the radicality of the works produced by Gauguin and his friends (Charles Laval, Léon Fauché, Emile Schuffenecker, Louis Anquetin, Georges Daniel, Émile Bernard, Louis Roy and Ludovic Nemo), and examining all paintings, woodcuts, ceramics, prints and drawings by Gauguin related to the show.