Gauguin and Polynesia

Nicholas Thomas


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Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
1 February 2024
ISBN: 9781801105231
464 pages

From the publisher

Paul Gauguin is commonly regarded as one of the greatest modern artists. He is renowned for resplendent, mythic imagery from Oceania, for a life of restless travel and for his supposed immersion in Polynesian life. But he has long been regarded ambivalently, and in recent years both Gauguin's sexual behaviour, and his paintings, have been considered exploitative. Gauguin and Polynesia offers a fresh view on the artist, not from the perspective of European art history, but from the contemporary vantage point of the region - Oceania - which he so famously moved to. Gauguin's art is revealed, for the first time, to be richer and more eclectic than has been recognised. The artist indeed did invent enigmatic and symbolic images, but he also depicted Polynesia's colonial modernity, acknowledging the life of the time and the dignity and power of some of the Islanders he encountered. Gauguin and Polynesia neither celebrates nor condemns an extraordinary painter, who at times denounced and at other times affirmed the French empire that shaped his own life and the places he moved between. It is a revelation, of a formative artist of modern life, and of multicultural worlds in the making.