THE SUN, SUNDAY
UARY 25, .1920.
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Paris Now Bows to Gauguin's Savagery in Art
Which Thrice Was Rejected There, as Repulsive
Tremendous Vogue That Has Founded a School Rests Mainly on the Weird and Brilliant
Pictures of Tahiti Where He Found the Dream Woman, and Earlier but No Less Savage
' Work Done in-Brittany and Provence Artist's Own Writings Reveal Primitive Instincts
OAys) A PICTUFSE THAT HAS BEEN
COMPARED TO BOTTICELLI o
By WILLIS STEELL.
AN nnccdote of Henry Heine had a
great effect in his day. It relates
to n Visit paid by a portrait painter to a
(savage tribe in searcli of types. After
pleasing several minor officials, so to speak,
the "Great King'' consented to sit, but the
artist observed in his.demeanor a reluctance
that his evident pride in his own appear
ance contradicted. When he asked the
king to explain the discrepancy the dusky
monarch took him aside and whispered:
"Please paint mc white!"
The black people of Tahiti immortal
ized, so it is thought by some, by the
wierd brush and tho brilliant colors of
Paul Gauguin and by the book Noa Noa,
which is a poetic commentary on his
Tahitian paintings, have no wish, accord
ing to this authority, to change their tint,
and their feeling for the poor white
people is pity.
Gauguin's vogue, which now is tremen
dous in Paris, where it has founded a
school, rests mainly on these savage pic
tures and his earlier work done in Brit
tany and Provence, just as sad and savage
are carried along with them. Paris thrice
rejected this artist's work, denominating
it "repulsive," and Director Ilougon of
the Beaux Arts, who had been instru
mental in getting the artist a gratuitous
mission to Tahiti, when asked to carry
out his promises of aid to tho artist,
starving and' dying in that far off region,
"Never will the French Government
spend one franc in tho purchnse of that '
Gauguin has not, it is true, reached the
Louvre, but the French Government has
become the owner by purchase of several
of his pictures which now hang in the
Luxemburg and will go eventually to the
great museum or to some of the museums
of the smaller cities.
Tribute to Popularity.
Meanwhile the vogue of Gauguin has
grown immensely since the painter) Pierre
Gireaud exposed his great canvas, the
"Homage to Gauguin," in the autumn
salon of 1905. This canvas shows the
master in a group of young artists whom
he influenced: Serusier, Daniel de Mont
fried, Francisco Durrio, Maurice Dennis,
Dufrcnoy, O'Conor, Fayet, De Mathan.
It has spread until the statement of
Durrio hardly seems exaggerated. This
statement is that there is something of
Gauguin, more or less, in' all the young
painters of to-day and that his influence
is seen directly or indirectly in the work
of Maillol, Filiger, Vuillard, Bonnard,
La Rochefoucauld, Loiseau, Laval, Sc
guin, Chemaillard and a score of other
young men who have lately arrived.
A shadowed popularity like that of
Degas, Manet, and perhaps Monet, is a
higher mark than Gauguin is likely to ever
reach. A prophecy like this is a little
less absuid in Gauguin's case, for it is
certainly true that the beauty he saw
will never become- tho beauty of the gen
eral. That multiple head still finds it
difficult to sec pulchritude in Manet's
"Olympe." although the lady is really
vulgarly lovely and tho tasks set by the
savage Gauguin are more intricate and
involve too high an art education.
However, a big step has been taken, say
the artists, when the Beaux Arts have
Gauguin's lifo began and ended miser
ably, with no suushine except what he
Jput in his pictures. Nevertheless he was
satisfied by it and almost with his last
breath pronounced that it had been full
and successful. He was an egoist of tho
most pronounced type and his pride was
so immense that it figures as a virtue.
Ha affirmed of himself this: "I want
everything; I can not, hut I meant to
conquer." Hp -Lad no vanity, he said,
because his pride was too great. His ex
planations of himself whether in paint
or in the words of "Noa Noa" intended
to allegorize his canvases and which
fibjrles Morice, an intimate friend and
ftenefnclor, says he made over from Gau
guin's crude notes, publishing the book
nftcrward at his own expense, i-ompose
Ian enigma which raris is trying to solve.
Was it the explanation of a child or a
That he wa3 what Mallarme pronounced
him, "the primitive man supreme," is
more than Gauguin at his haughtiest ad
mitted; ho was content to bo a ,savage.
Ho accepted Strindberg's definition that
he was "the savage who hates an uneasy
civilization; tho Titan who, jealous of
his Creator, makes his own little crea
tion; the child who breaks his playthings
to mako new ones; tho artist who pre
ferred to see -the sky red rather than blue
like the mob."
Gauguin was proud of the Peruvian
strain drawn from his maternal ancestry
and believed that the mixed blood of peas
ant French and haughty Spanish account
ed for some of his instincts. He was born
in 1S48 at Lima and taken to Franco at
the age of 0, a little later carried back to
Peru, and thence again, when the family
fortune failed, to Paris. His education
yas so broken into that he may be said to
have had no conventional training of his
mind. At 17 ho was n sailor in the French
merchant mercantile marine;, at 22 lie
was an agent on the bourse; at 24 he mar
ried a Danish girl. His leisure time during
these various occupations was spent iii
trying to teach himself to draw and paint
and to sculpt. This leisure meant his
evenings and Sundays.
At length he madej the acquaintance of
Pissaro, who was his only teacher, and
along with the now famous men of the
impressionistic school Gauguin produced
some pictures for their first exhibition.
His early apprentice work thus was seen
in connection with canvases by Pissaro,
Cezanne, Guillaumin and Monet. One of
his pictures gave an Englishman who
' happened into the exhibition a start. It
furnished an anecdote which is still in
circulation about Gauguin. The English
visitor paused before a canvas by Gau
guin and, throwing up his hamls, ex
claimed: "My God! A red dog!" and never
stopped running till he found a place
where he could buy a hair of the dog that
had bitten him.
' From 1880 Gauguin devoted himself to
art, and ere long impressionism itself
began to bore him. He wished in his
desire to copy nature exactly (and yet
to compose freely), to stop the sun in
its course like an artistic Joshua and thus
seize one moment of life. In choosing
the Breton field for his brush he
said he did so "because of its sadness,"
and he was in truth born sad. He had
a numerous family, but after his break
with the impressionistic school the few
merchants of art who had been pur
chasers failed him, and in order to live
he removed to Normandy, thence to
Denmark, where he quarrelled with
everybody indiscriminately, commencing
with the relatives of his wife who lived
Family Life Impossible to Him.
The truth seems to be that family life
was impossible to him. After the sepa
ration from his wife he took two chil
dren with him to Paris and left three
with his wife. They met, once only, years
afterward. In a letter from Tahiti
in his second exile Gauguin breathes this
plaint, which reads like literary pathos:
"I have never had a letter sent to me
beginning with the words : 'Cherc pere.' "
This period in Paris when ho was
burdened with the support of two chil
dren was Gauguin's darkest. Then bet
knew absolute want and to obtain a
meagre living he served for a spell as a
bill poster. But somehow he continued
to paint, and in the eighth show of the
impressionists he had nineteen pictures
all showing the influence of Pissaro, al
though he claimed to have thrown it off.
Followed a return to Brittany and the
painting of his now celebrated sym
bolistic and religious pictures, "Jesus
on Calvary," "Who Are We?" "Whence
Come We?" and "Where Are We Qo'
ing?" And (hen he returned to Paris,
where painters laughed at his ignorance
nnd the public laughed at his nrt. A
dabble in ceramics ensued, and then he
fled for "light" to join his idolatrous fel
low painter, Vincent Van Gogh nt Aries.
A tragedy resulted from this visit.
Gauguin lins said that the men who cared
for his art and for himself were apt to
lose their minds, and Van Gogh did. He
tried to kill Gauguin and, failing in his
attempt, cut off his own ear and sent it as
a present to the artist, jvho had taken
refuge from his violence in an inn. A
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NTED Su HIMSELF
ASTRACHAN HELMET encT BLUE CLONK
THAT- PAFaiS USED TO STARE AT .
PA S TO2 A L
SCEME N TAW7;
little later Van Gogh committed suicide
and Gauguin, saddened by the tragedy,
returned to Paris to stop for a short time,
for the Ecolc de Pont Avon was forming.
These synthesists, with Gauguin as their
acknowledged head, exhibited in 1889 at
the Cafe Volpini. Bernard, Aligustin,
Lavol and Schuffenecker were his princi
There were no sales from this show,
and Gauguin, incensed by the indifference
of Paris, longed to go far away and
chose as his dream point Tahiti. But
there had to be a sale before transporta
tion could be provided, and a new exhibi
tion comprehending Gauguin's pictures of
Martinique scenes, Breton paysages and
Aries sketches was offered. The result
was poor but sufficed. He reached
Tahiti as King Poinaio lay dying, and
there he saw the Queen Marau, and his
portrait of her is out, of his loveliest
"Savages? The word- comes naturally
to my lips when I consider these black
beings with cannibal teeth. To them like
wise I was a savage. Which was wrong?"
Refers to Savage Instincts.
Constantly he refers to his savage in
stincts and the joy he experienced in at
last yielding to them.
"There is nothing in my works of art
which docs not reveal myself, despite
myself, as a savage. That is why they
arc inimitable. The work of a man is
the explanation of thatman."
Time and again ho raises a pawn of
"It was co simple to paint what I saw,
to paint' without color relations, to put a
red lino next a blue if I saw it there. I
was in the glow of light, saturated inside
and out by light; why hesitato'to put all
this golden glow into my pictures?"
"These savages have fold me how fo
know myself better, thej hnve taught
me the rrai'e verity. All that I have
learned from others bores mc and if it he
true that I know but little still I prefer
that little which is myself. Who knows
but that this little when it is exploited
by others may become a great thing?
How many years it required to create
an appearance of movement?''
the Tahitians, burning and scorching
the skin but lighting them up interiorly
also, and he began at once to paini
from the model. At first it was difficult
to persuade the natives to sit. One
day he was sitting at his easel when
a Tahitian girl camo in. He showed
her a photograph of Manet's "Olympe,"
and she remarked:
5?he is very beautiful. Is she your
"Yes," answered Gauguin without
knowing exactly why he lied.
Then he begged the girl to sit for her
"Aita?" (Now?) she asked and ran
Presently she returned in a gorgeous
robe with her hair caught up and a tiara
"She was not pretty, precisely," com
ments Gauguin, "not pretty, but beauti
ful; so perfect was every feature and
every part in their relations."
She and all the Tahitian maidens were
to he taken, he explains, and the old
chiefs tried to make him understand thai
thero was no other form of love making
recognized in Tahiti. Love came after
the taking. But the artist affirms that
civilization still fettered him and "he,
did not dare."
Tho woman Tehura who figures in "Noa
Noa" was a dream woman, a symbol
of the eternal woman as he thought he
saw her darkly, through a veil of race
and dialect. She allegorizes the woman
in his pictures. A group of her is
Gauguin's dream of spring and as beau
tiful and fresh after one learns to know
the type as Botticelli's "Primavcra." Gau
guin called his group "Nave Nave Ma
hana," which means "Delicious Days." (
Laden with his trove, Gauguin sailed
away from Tahiti, as ho feared, forever.
In Paris he met with a staggering disap
pointment; his portrait of the Queen and
this group, "Delicious Days," loyely as
they are, were bunched with pictures of
Tahitians of less attraction and called
Nevertheless, as his uncle had died and
left him 13,000 francs he took a studio
in tho rue Vercingetorix, over tho door of
which he painted the legend, "ToFaruru"
to raako'love to a Javanese heighbor. The
pair went to Normandy, hut the combina
tion was ill starred. Tho Javanese invited
attention which led to vulvar fights, she
proved disloyal and back came Gauguin
in his Astrachan cap and blue Houplande
to startle Paris once more. But not for
.long. The nostalgia for Tahiti grew un
bearable, it conquered, and' be sold every-
"I have forgotten all I was ever taught, was a melange of barbarisms, maritime
hence I am young. They have called mo areot and the slant: of the studio.
revolutionary. In art there are two
classes, revolutionaries and plagiarists.
Musie I love in its hour and a few books,
but it is art alone (painting) that gives
an instantaneous reaction. My favorite
authors are Poc and Balzac. When I saw
Kodin's head of Balzac, I said: 'It is a
thing at the Hotel Druot and bade a final . beautiful work of art,' yet if I had made
one I would have made a giant and 111
his two hands I would have put two little
adieu to civilization.
The Book "Noa Noa."
It was on the eve of this second voyage
that Charles Morice says he proposed to
Gauguin their collaboration on the hook
"Noa Noa." It was ,to he a comment in'
prose and poetry to nccompany and ex
plain Gauguin's' visions of Tahiti. The
artist accepted the idea with joy and'sent
back scraps of writing which Morice says
he turned into French.
"Gauguin's vocabulary was very poor,
meagre as a peasant's, and yet his art
was purely literary. From his pictures
I made my Tahitian pocois; his prose was
translated, but it was his."
Gauguin's second visit to Tahiti de
veloped unhappily. , He- was ill and soon
his little resourco of money became ex
hausted; he also got involved in troubles
with the authorities, religious and secu
lar. He says himself that even in savage
dom a man is looked down upon if he has
no money. So he went to Domenica, the
most peopled island of the Marquesas.
From there he wrote to Morice:
"It is probable that I shall not see the
book printed ("Noa Noa"), my days are
Although his art hail by now grdwn
calmer, almost serene, lie wrote of it:-
"My Breton canvases, at first rejected,
became comprehensible nnd even charm
ing, rose water, because of the pictures
from Tahit Tahiti will he as cologne
water compared to what I send from the
monsters Seraphilus and Seraphita."
These notes from Tahiti and Domenica
have perhaps been edited. They do not
show the defects his, friends found in his
letters when they say these were deformed
by vulgarities painful to read, that con
scious of his ignorance of literature and
history he took refuge in a savage hau
teur, labored and hard to read. His style
So much for the literarv critics. His
masters in nrt recognized his original
talent from the first exliibitiou. Munet
sought him out to praise his work when
he was almost self taught and Degas ad
mired him and constantly said so.
Painters .whose gaze is 011 the future were
unanimous in their verdict that Gauguin
was one of the "Most necessary artists
for France of the nineteenth century.'
They defended him until their good of
fices were no longer needed, for shortly
after his death he defended himself. He
died utterly neglected 011 May S, lOOjl.
In the few strap of paper left in his
effects and sent back to France was found
"The Gods are dead and Atuana sick
ens of their death."
Wonderful Stained Glass
N the cathedral at Chartres there are
1,350 subjects in 143 windows. York
Cathedral has 117 subjects in one great
window. Canterbury, Lincoln nnd Salis
bury have beautiful examples of early
There are many more in France, and
often the same workmen had windows in
different towns, They travelled in com
panies or guilds. In the event of an Eng
lish military invasion of France they car
ried on their peaceful craft in England,
and during -ji tranquil season across the
Channel there they were.
It is of this epoch that subjects in me
dallions are typical. Circles alternated
with squares to the full height of the win
dow, each space having its story from the
Old and New Testaments, with connect
ing patterns of ornament. The figures
were smaller, of course, when so enclosed,
but the orderly repetition of forni3 and
colors and the assembling of so manv
Gauguin was intoxicated by the light (Here they mlfke love), and after dec- At the 'same1 time ho believejl that he pieces of glass resulted in magnitlceniar
that shone on tho dark r.akcd bodies of orating it'in a peculiar manner proceeded t had renewed his vision, saying: monies carried aloft in varied courses.
The great number of subjects in Char
tres J3athedral w.ere made up in this way,
indwd, Chartres is preeminent for Biblical
legends in medallion windows. Glass of
unusual thickness and radianco was used
and substantial leading.
Tho modern awakening of interest in
stained glass as a fine art is largely due
to the initiative of tho prc-Raphaelite
group of devoted artists in England.
About sixty years ago Edward Burncs
Jnncs,. at tho instance of his friend Kos
setti, designed some windows following tin
early examples and in after years con
tributed many more to the art of his
Painted glass of. European manufacr
tnre is usually of excellent finish. Under
its native soft gray skie it js at its best.
The brilliant sunshine of other lands tends
to disintegrate its composition, especially
in its 'black painted surfaces in sudden
contrast with the clare of white glass. Tin1
details of its delicate grisaille often fuso
in a cold, unpleasant glitter.
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