The exhibition to be held in spring at this prestigious London venue is actually an exhibit dedicated to French painters from the second half of the 1800s. However, the leading role is reserved for the greatest interpreter of post-impressionism
The event will be open from March 29th to June 14th, 2020, and offers works from the private collection of the Hansens, wealthy Danish patrons, that are usually held in the Ordrupgaard museum in Copenhagen, currently closed for restoration. The collection is an interesting selection of French painting, which starts from Realism and goes beyond Impressionism.
Study of a Nude Suzanne sewing – oil on canvas, 1880
Nave-Nave-mMoe / Sacred spring sweet dreams – oil on canvas,1894
Four Breton Women – oil on canvas, 1886
The collection began during the first twenty years of the 20th century, when Hansen, often in Paris for work, was struck by the fascinating artistic experimentations being carried out in the French capital. Thanks also to a certain talent in business – these works had little market back then – he started making shrewd purchases based on the advice of important names in the business. This help came from Théodore Duret, the critical “discoverer” of Impressionism, as well as another art merchant, Ambroise Vollard, who did much to publicise the most innovative painting of the time. Vollard writes in his memoirs that towards this new art there was much more interest from foreigners, who were better buyers than the snobby French collectors.
Vahine no te tiare / Woman with a Flower – oil on canvas, 1891
Te-aa-no-areois / The seed of the Areoi – oil on canvas, 1892
Spirit of the Dead Watching – oil on canvas, 1892
Consequently, this collection also brought Paris’ pictorial novelties to Denmark. It was inaugurated with a large banquet in 1918 in what was originally the family’s holiday home. Now their main residence, the building was open to the public once a week.
Eight pieces by Gauguin took centre stage. an artist who constitutes a fundamental junction in Western painting. He was one of those artists, like Van Gogh or Seurat, who in the late 20th century took painting towards the Modern era. On the basis of certain “ruptures” of Impressionism, he aspired to a total liberation, in order to “break glass at the risk of cutting his fingers”. He wanted to create art, in his own words, that could “translate all the emotions of nature and man”. His style was quite original, far from any well-known canons at the time. In fact, Gauguin believed that schools transform art into dogma by imprisoning talent, stating that it is not the system that creates genius.
Where do We come from, what are ae, where are we going – oil on canvas, 1897
Annah the Javanese – oil on canvas, 1893
The Wizard of Hiva Oa – oil on canvas,1902
Gauguin was a traveller, born in Paris, and spent his childhood in Peru and then at 17 he returned to France. He worked in a bank and married a beautiful Danish girl. However, uneasiness devoured him. He would soon abandon work and family is dedicate himself to painting.
The artist’s need for an “elsewhere” was quite strong, which will also be the guiding motive for his work. He went to Britain, and then in 1891 to Tahiti and finally to the Marquesas Islands, in search of an impossible pure world, an uncontaminated Eden that he would sadly discover no longer exists in any corner of the earth.
These journeys to primitive worlds were driven by his need to go to the roots of art. He wanted to go outside the intellectualism of Western civilization, far from the contemporary painting that the bourgeois enjoyed, imitating reality “as if it were a photograph”.
His painting is expressed in simplified forms with intense and anti-naturalistic colours, as if he wanted to reproduce primitive art. Precisely this need to return to the sources led to religious themes in his painting, after their eclipse in Western art. However, this religiosity that is not embodied in Christianity alone.
Portrait of Madame Gauguin – oil on canvas, 1880–81
Vision after the sermon – oil on canvas, 1888
He was also the man who saw beauty outside the western standards. In the 1980s, Naomi Campbell appearing on the cover of Vogue marked the collapse of a taboo. For the first time, a prestigious magazine put a non-white woman in the foreground. And she was not there as a part of culture, but rather as a model. The cover caused an uproar, and a new aesthetic model was born. However, Gauguin had anticipated this turning point a century earlier. The Polynesian women of his canvases consecrate a new beauty that was extremely different from the western concepts. This is not the taste of the exotic, but rather the creation of new, original and disharmonious standards whose innovative scope would be understood solely by the avant-gardes.
Gauguin was able to look at the indigenous culture with different eyes compared to western culture, which came to colonize. His eyes would learn and look at that world without filters. The artist had a profound understanding of what is not Western – often in his works he pictorially reproduces artefacts of indigenous art – perhaps inspiring those who admire his work to continue to look beyond the boundaries of their own culture.
Anna Maria Calabretta