Paul Gauguin playing the harmonium

Photograph once said to be of Paul Gauguin playing the harmonium, taken by Alphonse Marie Mucha in his studio 1895

It is amazing how many images of dark-haired men, with prominent noses and fullsome moustaches, get identified as Gauguin. Here’s one such example, allegedly the man himself (almost certainly not him…) playing the harmonium in 1895. Gauguin was a talented musician, so perhaps there’s some justification for the attribution. But let’s just say for one moment it was indeed Gauguin… What would you write as the caption?


john bond

I wish I'd bought a pianola

Pamela & At...

The Gauguin show was far too crowded; it was also full of information which had to be read and could not always be accessed. Could it have been less didactic?


I wanted to put my comments on the "what did you think of the Gauguin thread" but didn't seem able to do it. I was particularly fascinated by the non-painted works, prints, drawings ceramics etc which were unfamiliar to me. However I find myself totally frustrated by the labelling at this and other exhibitions. Why is it deemed essential to make any printed labels as small as possible? This results in more congestion in the rooms as people ned to go so close to the wall to read them thus interfering with other visitors' view. This situation is aggravated by putting the labels for a group of 3 paintings together at one side of the group. When looking at the ceramics and wood carvings I needed to turn round and round looking at all the walls of the room to work out where the relevant label was! ( why was there no label on the plinths?) Please tell us whether exhibitions are designed this way to force people to use the electronic guides or whether there is an aesthetic reason. The Tate is not the only offender in this way.. I have even seen subtle labels with beige print on a brown background that were illegible in the subdued lighting. The purpose of labels is to inform and if they can not be clearly read they are pointless. Right, now I've got that of my chest!


I guess he must have been "TAHITEEING" a few minutes before the photo was taken.

J Nicholas

Having done a number of exhibitions recently and overcrowding was always an issue we booked for the latest time knowing that we could then browse at our leisure at the back of the queue! How deluded we were. Just over an hour into the tour and ¾ through our audio tour we were advised the exhibition was closing in 10 mins. This meant that we were put under pressure to see the last 3 rooms in 10 mins. Ended up skipping 2 of the rooms completely. The cloakroom also closes at the same time as the exhibition so if you want your coats returned don't hang about.

And what precisely is wrong with chronological order? We found ourselves confused with the rooms,especially at the start of the audio tour where a room number would have helped. Also the narrative on the wall didn't always match to dates stated elsewhere. For instance how many months was he first in Martinique for? 5? 7? 9?

However we did get an insight into Gauguin and much discussion from it.

Colin D.Tod

Gauguin Maker of Myth

Full marks to the curators in giving us the opportunity to see the outstanding 'What, are you Jealous?' (Moscow Pushkin Museum)

Inevitably there are absentees: Neither 'Woman with a Mango' (Baltimore Museum), in London fairly recently, nor 'Young Tahitians at Table'(New York Meyer), in Paris a few years back, make the journey.

This is a large show, virtually one third of the artist's output. Starting with the self portraits, then moving through the other galleries, do we see one third of his best work, that is the question?


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Photography Art Cafe

Half finished work.


We were disappointed with some aspects of this exhibition. The colours in the paintings were not as bright and intense as in the book "Gauguin Maker of Myth". Most seemed quite dull. Could this have been due to the lighting?

The writing on the labels should be much larger to make them easily readable at normal viewing distance, and should accompany the picture under description.

The introductions on the walls should be in bold font to make them easy to read.

It would have been helpful to have an indication of which way to go round the rooms to see the paintings in the intended order.

I wonder why some of the paintings were missing? There were labels without accompanying paintings.

I think that Gauguin could not draw or paint very well, and this explains his style. I do not think he was a good draftsman and painter, who developed this style deliberately.

The previous week, we had visited the Monet exhibition in Paris. 175 colourful paintings were very well displayed, and the exhibition was much more enjoyable.

Still, it was rewarding to be able to view so many Gauguin's together.

Ingrid Kunisch

I felt the same as mentioned before - too many people standing around and chatting in French; Scandinavian; Polish and German - which is very annoying when one concentrates on particular sections. I too left early not even seeing the last three rooms. Hope it will have calmed down a little at a later stage and hope to revisit then.

Ingrid Wassenaar

I also wanted to comment on the breathtaking show, but could only seem to leave something here. So, to kick off, my caption:

"Please don't shoot the pianist. He is doing his best."

In other thoughts, I was blown away by the curation of the show. Going in the evening meant that we were relaxed and open to what it had to offer -- that liminal time of day when all the work has been done, and it's time to reflect.

From a practical point of view, it was also delightfully empty.

Walking through the rooms, we had a sense of the most meticulous care and attention to detail. To see objects from his paintings next to them was profoundly moving. Barthes would have had a field day: it was as though the punctum had leapt right out of the canvas. I loved the carved frame with intertwining 'G's, with its oddly juxtaposed photo of Gauguin; the carved sabots; the walking stick.

It was a revelation to know that he worked as ably in wood as in paint -- and in some ways working in woods seems the key to his later painterly style of spareness, loss of depth and perspective, matte flatness, stylization to figure the eternal and unchanging -- all of that aesthetic appears in his wood carving. The horned profile, carved in the twisted wood was as satisfying and witty as it was uncanny and unnerving.

We found the thematic presentation highly effective. The themes were well defined in their own right, but they also succeeded one another plausibly, and created a narrative in their own right. To see paintings next to one another that I have only seen as dispersed across galleries as they were originally separated from each other by time and space was an absolute privilege.

Ordinarily the biographical information attached to a retrospective is overwhelming, but the two rooms of biography, set like a bi-valve in the centre of the exhibition, with the rooms circulating around them, was inspiring. The books, posters, cards, photos, maps and two distinct timelines sent out radials into the pictures, enabling deeper readings of them. To see the wooden engraving of the woman drinking from a fountain, touching and stroking the rocks with her hands, like a kitten with its mother -- but then to find out that its genesis was actually a much more prosaic photo of a woman drinking from a pipe -- this was a fantastic detail and means to illustrate Gauguin's mythologization of Tahiti, and the 'eternal feminine'. How much he wanted Tahiti to be the exotic it so clearly no longer was by the time he had got there. How much he wanted to be at the ends of the earth, yet only got to the end of the French empire.

I was very struck by the painting towards the end, In Flight. One of the women had a profile that recalled Gauguin's own profile, with its American-Indian brow and nose. The way the hair fell was like a Necker cube: at first glance you see a woman, but if you look again, you see a man.

I wondered if there is not more to be made of the issue of androgyny in his work? I found it fascinating that he wanted Oviri to be placed on his grave -- that ambivalent, squat, ugly-beautiful, powerful mock-icon of femininity. Proust, in writing about homosexuality, makes reference to the man-woman -- a common image in late-nineteenth-century thinking about homosexuality -- treating some of his characters as men with an inner woman.

Although we usually think of Gauguin as having a resolutely heterosexual aesthetic, I found myself questioning titles such as 'Are you jealous?' and the way the figure is looking both at the viewer but also therefore at the painter. It is unreadable whether she is saying 'are you jealous of our intimacy?', 'are you jealous of our being in Tahiti?', or 'are you jealous that you cannot BE one of us?'.

Thank you, thank you for the incredible work you must have put into gathering all the work together, and then working out how to show it. It inspired us, and revealed Gauguin in a way that we had never understood him before.

Ingrid Kunisch

I felt the same as mentioned before - too many people standing around and chatting in French; Scandinavian; Polish and German - which is very annoying when one concentrates on particular sections. I too left early not even seeing the last three rooms. Hope it will have calmed down a little at a later stage and hope to revisit.

Simon Emmerson

My family and I travelled down specifically for the exhibition and frankly I wish I had not bothered. The works, of course, where excellent but you could not see them. Far too many people, prams, etc.. In the hotel that evening heard one couple speaking to another, the latter having also been on Saturday and they recommended it was not worth going to due to the overcrowding, heat. Sorry but I am not going to make the effort to come again.


" And now for something completely different...."

Judith Gray

I'm afraid I found the Gauguin exhibition disappointing. It was far, far too crowded with clusters of women just standing around chatting, as if in a Costa Coffee venue. Also, the drawing-students, sat cross legged in front of the pictures, made it difficult to get near to the pictures. I don't think his best picturs were here. We left early, annoyed and disappointed.

elizabeth veldon

Thank God I remembered my moustache.

Ruaridh Fraser-...

Donald where's ye troosers??.


If those chatty women were young Tahitian women I'd say they were completely justified!


"My moustache brings all the girls to my yard!"


Did I just get caught wearing my pony tail while playing the harmonium with no pants on?

Simon Weekes

This is obviously not Gauguin; this guy's all mustache and no trousers.


you Are shooting from the waste up?


Gaugin runs out of canvas and decides to paint on his trousers... It's worth more with a layer of oil paints.


You ARE shooting from the waist up?

sorry, momentary blip. SPELLING!


Hey, if this painting gig doesn't work out, my dear friend Vincent said I could always make a living playing the harmonium. He said I have a good ear for it.


"Is this suit jacket a bit much?"


Gauguin felt very smug, he'd finally found a way to utilise the third pedal.


Forgotten your trousers? Must be suffering from Poly-nesia

Jonathan le Roux

Front page news, Headline: Guaguin back from a little trip abroad, still cannot get used to the weather back home, still thinks he is in a hot humid climate, or he could have just left his pants in the carribbean, is the most likely senario!!!


"Pants off to you all admiring my art! Time for some music now..."Love, Gauguin


"well one must make an effort when one has guests"


"A man without a moustache is like a woman with one"


^ this wins


Does this moustache make my bum look big?

Ian Bradshaw

Is Gaugin saying "hey Alph, now it's your turn to play while I have go at the can-can"?

John ray Arthur

One day I'll Have enough moustache hair to make a pair Mo' hair socks!

Janice Shirbon

Few people know that Guagin developed the world's first musical comode.


But what does it play? :D

GoGo Raven

" I was doing the pornstache before John Holmes "

lucy milton

Van Gogh was perplexed and annoyed by his house mate's competitiveness in artistic ventures. Paul showed Van Gogh how to simultaneously fart, play the organ as well as twitch his moustache in an erotic manner, which is arguably what led to Van Gogh cutting his own ear off and mental collapse...


"My trousers? Oh, it's a long story but let's just say it involves a bet, a Dutchman and an ear."

Carol Ann Taylor

"Whats so important about your nose that you have to underline it?"

(I pinched this line from Mooky the clown at Blackpool Circus)

Jennifer Smith

"It's just to darn hot"

Isabel M. Martinez

"my eyes are up here"

Claire Lloyd

The cool air invigorated Gauguin, he preferred to play trouser-less. It stimulated the dexterity of his fingers and allowed a delightful breeze to air his moustache- not to mention the jealousy it instilled in his more constrained counterparts.


OK, OK! Smarty pants photographer - you've had your laugh ... one more tinkle and I must insist upon the return of my pantaloons and don't even think about the moustache!


Funny, I'm sure when I started playing I had some trouses on!


LOL! Nice one Lightdragoon

Christine Ramsay

"Oh I say...! This is a bit Touch and Gaugin"


Gauguin is too big for his trousers.