Tate Modern Gauguin exhibition poster

Tate Modern’s Gauguin exhibition poster

Ok. It has been a month since our Gauguin exhibition opened and we have already had a fantastic amount of comments from visitors. Many thanks to everyone. As a curator, these insights into people’s experience, thoughts and opinions are fascinating and will certainly inform any projects I work on in the future. Please do post messages on the Tate blog - I read them all! I look forward to hearing from you. Christine 

Comments

michele

I visited the exhibition yesterday with a friend and we both enjoyed it. I watched the documentary on BBC a few weeks ago and that made a big difference to my understanding of his work and life. The audio was very interesting and is recommended. Yes the exhibition was very busy but it is understandable as so many people want to see his beautiful pieces and actually it pleases me that so many people including children are interested.

Jo S

I enjoyed the show which really made me think and re evaluate Gaugin's position to peers and future modern artists. It was also great to see the fabulous colours and compositions in the flesh.

I was ambivalent about the thematic curating. One of the great pleasures of big and important retrospectives is to get a feeling for how the artist's work progresses. This understanding is as much emotional as intellectual and by lumping the work together in thematic groups the effect was sometimes rather dislocating and jumpy. The landscape room for example contained so many different paintings from different periods with different stylistic influences that it was very difficult to get an understanding of Gaugin's changing position to the genre.

I think the understanding of change is very important to convey as is the communication of the reasons behind it. These factors are chronological. They develop and it would have been nice to see the ranges of Gaugin's art fermenting and changing in the way they did in reality - in association with his life and changing times. Because this wasn't presented as the case, the viewer had to constantly make conceptual jumps backwards and forwards which was sometimes less than satisfying.

The myth making theme was an interesting one but wasn't a strong enough line in Gaugin's work to justify your banner headline. This felt rather forced as I came away from the show moved and impressed with the range and complexity of Gaugin's work of which the manipulation of myth was just one part of.

I though the context rooms were interesting. But it just felt like a lot of stuff thrown together. I know it's difficult but maybe there are other ways of showing an artist's relationship to his times than having separate rooms of contextual materials. In this way I was wondering how Symbolism for example could be seen to be relating and affecting his work. As was his personal and painterly relationship to Van Gogh. In this way it was great to see that little letter to Van Gogh in the religious room. Perhaps there could have been more of these subtle contextual juxtapositions?

I went on a Friday evening so fortunately missed the crowds. But despite these reservations I enjoyed the show. It make me think and feel and the resonances are still lingering. Quite apart from the paintings themselves it was good to get a sense of the man and how driven he must have been to push on and away from home in so many different ways.

Sally Carr

I have never really rated Gauguin, so was very keen to see this exhibition. I thought the standard varied enourmously. Some of the Tahitian pictures were stunning,the faces quite beautiful and gorgeous colours.The Brittany landscapes were equally vibrant. But I thought that quite a few of the pictures looked frankly amateur and was not impressed by the mythology, I think he had spent too long in the sun! Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, beautifully presented and thought provoking.

Tate Modern Fan

I enjoyed the Gauguin exhibition and thought it was very well structured. I was surprised by the number of paintings on display, and impressed with the wealth of historical information provided. The explanatory text provided at the entrance to each room was particularly helpful, however, would it be picky of me to wonder why the font size of the description next to each painting has to be so small? I'm in my thirties and there is nothing wrong with my eyes (yet), but I had a headache by the end of the day! One needs to be standing immediately in front of the text in order to read it (in fact, I noticed a number of elderly visitors leaning forward and peering painfully), which is not always possible when there are crowds. This is a great pity. A huge expanse of empty wall, and a tiny smidgeon of text in a miniature font. I've noticed this at other (also excellent) exhibitions at the Tate Modern. Having said that, thank you for a well planned and thought provoking exhibition.

Sandra Peterken

Fantastic exhibition. I have always loved the vibrancy of colour and originality of Gaugin's work. I learned and appreciated more with the thematic approach taken by the curators which tackled the history and progression of Gauguin's art and his artistic quest in such an interesting way. Nevermore O Tahiti makes me weep.

John Denison

My wife and I enjoyed the exhibition very much, and appreciated the arrangement of the paintings in the various rooms and of course the superb quality of Gauguin's work. The little booklet provided was very helpful, but our MAJOR criticism was the minuscule font used for the description of the individual paintings. Why oh why do you do this ??!! (you are not the only ones). The frustration every time in waiting one's turn to read it (when only one person can do so at a time) and then, in our advancing state of myopia, in having to PEER to read the text was intense to say the least, and for us was a major factor in detracting from our enjoyment of the exhibition.

m Benjamin

Why can't you include the detailed captions in the booklet like they do at some of the National Gallery special exhibitions? It saves a lot of ducking and weaving for those of us who can't read that small type.

Charlotte

A vast collection of very varied pictures. I didn't know how diverse his style was. I enjoyed the rooms with the historical information about him and found some of his paintings beautiful.

Charlotte

A vast collection of very varied pictures. I didn't know how diverse his style was. I enjoyed the rooms with the historical information about him and found some of his paintings beautiful.

Frances Butler

Thank you for inviting me to comment. I don't think I have ever had such an extreme mood change as at this exhibition. I was excited at the prospect of seeing Gaugin's work. His strong outlines and flat planes of colour and of course the exoticism of the content have always appealed. By the end of my ninety minute visit, I was depressed by the man and his self-centred,irresponsible behaviour and disappointed in the lack of development in his artistic style. I liked his early images best particularly the Breton ones and the paintings of his children and their dreams. He needn't have gone to Polynesia!

Chris Roberts

I agree with the previous writer. Although I try not to let the personal details about the artist affect my view of his work, it was hard for me not to on this occasion. I do love his palette, though - even in the Breton paintings there are foreshadowings of the future explosion of colour.

It was dreadfully crowded when I visited (Friday afternoon c. 16.00) so I'm hoping to go again at a better time. I wonder when that might be?

J.Kessling

Loved the paintings-but Japenese tourists posing for ? fashion shots in front of pictures-no one seemed to stop them. only one visable guard inside the gallery with multiple guards outside People using i-phones to take fotos The level of carbon dioxide very high in some rooms is the ventilation working properly in the rooms at the east end? The lighting seems to leave a lot to be desired-it seems to drain the colour from the paintings-This seems a universal problem in most of the Tate Modern alas Irritations aside the paintings are wonderful and well worth multiple visits...

J.Kessling

I fully agree with this solution-well done-hope they take it on board....

Tim Simon

First of all let me say how grateful I am that you have provided a forum for Tate members to air their views about exhibitions. It may have been available for some time but I had not been aware of it.

Gauguin is something of an icon and one comes to this exhibition with all sorts of preconceived baggage; that as a leading (founder?) of synthetism he was at the forefront of post impressionism, that he influenced such as Picasso and the fauvists, that his major work was in Tahiti and the other islands he visited. All of this was satisfactorily dealt with in this exhibition. Displaying the works thematically works well and confirms what a ground breaking artist and intellectual he was.

However - and this is a big 'however'! It is a huge exhibition of I understand over 200 works. To do it any sort of justice needs several visits. My power of concentration lasts about 2 hours; many works require several minutes of study and one has to get from one to another and indeed find ones way about - I missed Room 3 entirely first time round. Added to which is the truly huge attendance. When I went on a weekday morning it was quite literally difficult to move round or to stand in contemplation before an exhibit for any period. One is pushed and shoved; it is virtually impossible to go against the flow or to stand in front of something which is on the audio route.

I understand the arguments for and against blockbuster exhibitions. Frequently when I go to one I say to myself 'never again'. This time and certainly for this exhibition I fear I mean it. There are a small number of works by Gauguin in public collections in London and many more in Paris and I will have to be satisfied with that!

Ronald Harewood

The exhibition was well presented but the work on show was a bit better than average. As an artist, very much immersed in colour I was really looking forward to it. Gaugain,seems an average draughtsman, average colourist,and the compositions were not outstanding. But the work that he and his progressive contemporaries did in freeing up painting from a host of constraints and conventions cannot be underestimated; I reap the benefits of it even now.

Tessa

We really enjoyed the headphone commentary. I got a lot mmore out of the pictures than I would have done had I just been looking at them without background info. We spent 2 hours in the exhibition which was a lot longer than i expected.

Clare Smallman

Interesting if crowded exhibition. I find my enthusiasm for Gaugin's actual work has not increased but, using the excellent audio guide, I certainly feel I know more about it. HOWEVER, I felt totally excluded in the 2 rooms with written material. I would normally read a lot of this but, partly because it was crowded, mostly because I could not read the sign-age, I missed the lot. I am short sighted and need glasses for this kind of material plus I have a mild visual impairment. The situation was made worse because of low light levels and (big minus) the labels being positioned at the back of the cases. Hopeless! As a result, my overall impression of the exhibition came out pretty negative.

marianovellamonti

I'm an anthropology graduate, not an art major, but the truth is, there is nothing like a great exhibition to make my toes tickle and my tummy rumble; art is like chocolate: you always want more! The Gauguin exhibition at the Tate Modern was a chocolate-like venture and I have so much to say about it!

To continue reading please check my blog entry about this exhibition:

http://marianovellamonti.blogspot.com/2010/10/gauguin-at-tate-modern-not-to-mi...

Bruno

what an enjoyable show! for me the thematic hanging took a bit of getting used to, but made sense, and also made one work a bit ! (not necessarily a bad thing in an exhibition...). how extraordinary that a guy who was so overwhelmed by his hungers could make them his painting practice so totally and clearly. Maybe this is the "spiritual" dimension of the work (this word came up a lot in other postings)...

Michael Lowis

Great exhibition of one of my favourite artists. I was surprised by the sheer quantity of exhibits, so there was a lot to see. It was very well presented, along with the comments. It was also good to be able to get quite close to many of the pictures so that one could examine the brush strokes. Thank you for a truly memorable experience.

Natalie d'...

I had booked early for this show, hoping to transform my indifference to Gauguin into enthusiasm. I've seen his paintings in museums here and there and of course in reproductions - his art seems made for high-tech printing, looks great in coffee-table books and on posters, cards, scarves, bags and baubles such as those currently adorning the Tate Modern shop. But I don't think I ever saw a comprehensive collection of his work gathered in one place so this was an opportunity to lose my immunity to his universal appeal.

Keeping eyes wide open, I ambled respectfully through the galleries, stopping for long reflective pauses. The background story I'm familiar with so I ignored the big wall-captions and I never ever opt for an audio-guide - no matter how informative, I don't want somebody's voice interrupting my own impressions. I need to have silence in my head to allow the work itself to speak to me, unmediated, if it's going to speak at all.

One thing immediately creates a barrier between the painting and the viewer: those frames - ornate, overwrought, overweight, overprotective gold frames - why do museum curators still think they must burden modern paintings with these antiquated trimmings? Do they think that art won't seem like great art to the public unless it's got ten inches of baroque chocolate box icing around it?

Never mind the frames, what about the work? Am I dazzled, excited, inspired? Well, yes and no. Gauguin's prints, woodcuts and wood-carvings are marvellous - the craftsman-artisan in him is at ease in solid media, materials he can cut and gouge and smoothe and polish. In many of his drawings there is the same sense of inhabiting the medium, neither dominated by or dominating it. Noa-Noa is a masterpiece. But put him in front of a canvas and Gauguin becomes self-conscious: he's got a message, he is an illustrator, a decorator, he makes pretty patterns out of a pretty setting. I go back and forth in the rooms, absorbing different periods of his work, but only four or five paintings escape the shocking conclusion forming in my mind that, underneath the bohemian runaway rogue artist with his hat and cape and exotic teen-age vahine, a conventional, bourgeois banker is trying to get out.

Compare Gauguin to Van Gogh - I'm sorry but I have to make that comparison - and the difference is obvious. Vincent loses himself in the subject he chooses to paint, he is entranced by it, his technique is entirely at the service of it. All that he has learned about colour and form sits before a tree, a field or a person and humbly offers itself, like a lover. I'm yours, he says. Every drawing and painting is for Van Gogh a love affair and the pen or brush caresses the love-object, coaxes it to reveal itself.

For Gauguin painting is not such a visceral, intuitive experience. He's attracted to the picturesque, the exotic, and uses elements of it to construct a mythical scenario. He has an agenda. 'Maker of Myth' is an apt description of the man as well as the artist. I think that when Paul came to Arles, finally giving in to Vincent's lonely and hero-worshipping entreaties, he must have been stunned by the work Vincent had produced. Gauguin was sensitive enough to realise that this work was something unprecedented and perhaps he knew in his heart that it was far beyond anything he himself could have created. Of course this is just conjecture, but my feeling is that his pride couldn't allow him to admit this and the famous Gauguin/Van Gogh fight and ensuing ear-slicing incident was an explosion of these undercurrents - Paul's envy and competitiveness, Vincent's disappointment that Paul had not expressed the appreciation of his work that he had hoped for.

So, am I glad I saw Gauguin at Tate Modern? Absolutely. Do I recommend this show? Definitely. Did I lose my immunity to Gauguin? No, apart from the prints and wood-carvings.

C. Ague

Fantastic & surprising. Not only unique having gathered under the same roof more rarely known work, but its perfectly coherent "maker of myth" motto. After this, making it impossible after this exhibition, to look at his work with (at least mine) more innocent eyes. Thanks. Will have to revisit it many times. The audio-guide, in my experience, is the most comprehensive, clear & didactic have known. Thanks, again. Claudio Ague

C. Ague

Fantastic & surprising. Not only unique having gathered under the same roof more rarely known work, but its perfectly coherent "maker of myth" motto. After this, making it impossible after this exhibition, to look at his work with (at least mine) more innocent eyes. Thanks. Will have to revisit it many times. The audio-guide, in my experience, is the most comprehensive, clear & didactic have known. Thanks, again. Claudio Ague

Steph W

Yes too crowded. Yes too hot. And perhaps will return toward end of show to see again.

I loved it. I was unaware of the other artwork by Gaugin - and what a talent with wood. The additional background and context works were also appreciated and I wish I'd had more time. Mainly, though, it was the colours in his paintings of the South Pacific and then the memory and longing for these colours..... I wanted to leave the suited and booted grey London room and crawl into some of the works and rest under a tree there.

Alan

This was a spectacular, world class exhibition. It made me see Gaugin through new eyes. I'm very grateful.

Yours Alan

Svetlana Stephenson

This is a very impressive exhibition, and a lot of thanks to Tate for organising it. But I thought it was a shame that the curators did not trust the viewing public to follow Gauguin's artistic development and instead divided his work thematically from the very beginning. I am sure this was an interesting task for the curators, but I would have prefered to see Gauguin's work against the background of his influences and peers and see how his art changed over the years. But such an approach to exhibitions is hardly fashionable these days...

Janie Critchley

I found the exhibition fascinating. I was unaware of Gauguin's real drawing talent and I loved the self-portraits which really showed his progression both as a man and an artist. I also found the Life and Times galleries very interesting and greatly added to my appreciation of the exhibition. Will definitely be visiting again. p.s. I went on a Sunday afternoon and yes, it was busy, but I thought the crowd management was OK. I was able to see everything clearly, but I do agree with the comments about captions - much too small.

Deborah

I agree with the above comment about following Gauguin's work through his artistic developemnt but I still found it a very outstanding experience and the quality of the artist's work that was displayed. I will visit the exhibition again before it closes. Thanks again for the good work that you put on time and time again.

ian

A facinating exhibition but the decision to put the superb paintings in such small rooms caused serious overcrowding which spoit the overall impact.

Ruth

Fantastic, just too crowded! Some piece of artwork is going to get damaged in the next 3 months. Had to buy the book to make sense of everything.

eve

Thank you so much for inviting comments. It's lovely being a member of Tate, because the visit was effortless - literally just wandered in off the street as the mood took me without any hype or preconception. Had thought I would love the paintings because I love colour, but got more and more queasy as I moved through the exhibition. The slanty-eyed dark fox in so many of the works disturbed me - as he intended it should, I bet. The paintings of his own children daydreaming or sleeping seemed slightly sinister, and the mute, expressionless supine young girls in Polysesia made me feel very angry towards and about Gaugin. My conclusion at the end? He was a sleazy fake. A failed stockbroker, failed husband, failed father who tried to rebrand himself as a hip, exotic, daring, buccaneering genius tapping into what he perceived as the zeitgeist, the thing that would sell his work. Massive output, but in the end, his colours would look good on mugs and umbrellas, and his compositions are creepy and artificial. Loved listening to your commentary on the audioguide, by the way, and the way you don't try to excuse him too much.

Louisa Fala

I thoroughly enjoyed the show which was beautiful, bizarre and unashamedly disgraceful all at the same time. Thank you Gauguin/Tate - credit where credit's due.

I didn't know much about Gauguin as a person before seeing the exhibition and I have to say that although I didn't necessarily agree with his lifestyle I found that I didn't have to. I thought the extra commentary on the Maison de Jouir was excellent and hit the nail on the head - that it's perhaps a little too easy to look back and judge with today's perspective when Gauguin is not one of our contemporaries.

Angela Redfern

Had never been keen on Gauguin's Tahitian works, which somehow smacked of the coloniser patronising the colonised. But was bowled over by his Breton work here, the landscapes, the portraits, the drawings, and still life. His religious work, however, left me cold. Both Life and Times rooms were absolutely fascinating. His stunning use of colour remains vivid in my mind's eye. Sometime the shapes made me think of Cézanne. A splendid afternoon well spent.

Emma Belak

I went with my daughter who is doing Art A level I realy enjoyed my self and always feel very endulged with the head phone commentry,which I felt was full and to the point of the 'story' of Gauguin Whose art I had only seen was of the ladies But now first his indulgence with his self portraits then how the world was in his day and his run off to Taihiti where he expected this Uytopia ! and it made me sit up when I heard he died of VD and made me think how many men did in those days-His Art is very interresting at first with the Dream paintings and all his colours and then the Young girls in Tahiti a bit spooky as he was quite old by then All a bit of an escape I felt - We will come again as two hours is enough but we needed to come back part of the joy of the membership-

Regina Madalena

I was not able to attend the Gaugin exhibit as planned due to the tube strike on my last day in London. The strike, the bus system, and the refund policy were all very disappointing, but these things will happen.

Diane Sheffield

A once in a lifetime opportunity to see these fabulous works! Thank you so much for putting together such an attention grabbing exhibition - WOW. I loved the thematic groupings and was amazed to see such a huge number of strange and wonderful paintings. I was really intrigued by the two inside rooms tracking influences and timelines, all thoses letters and photographs, I think it really brought the artist to life - I must go again (and again) and study these in more detail(maybe take my french dictionary?). I can always rely on the Tate to put on a very exciting exhibition!!

larry gold

i thoughly enjoyed the gaughin exhibition.although very busy i was able to move around easily and saw everything

larry gold

i thoughly enjoyed the gaughin exhibition. although very busy i was able to move around easily and see everything

Gary Winship

A great Juxtaposition of color, swirling Van Gogh brush strokes, a joy to see this body of work in one place. I will be back, great Tate.

Tracy

I was a little if not very disappointed. I have always wanted to see Gauguin and learn more about him and now my eyes are open to this man and I don't like him or his art. I felt no connection with any of his work and was not moved by the experience at all. As always the Tate put on a great exhibition so no complaints there. I have to say the members bar fell dull and boring. What's the point of being a member when the restaurant section had a better atmosphere than the members room? :(:(

Ronald De Preter

Dear Mrs Riding,

I enjoyed the exhibition , interesting choice and good presentation. After the exhibitions of Munch and Van Gogh in the Royal Academy, and now Gauguin in the Tate Modern, I am looking for a major retrospective of the other important and revolutionary 19th century artist James Ensor, whose paintings, drawings and ethings captures the world, but still unknown in London, although his British roots !!!

Kind regards

Ronald De Preter, Belgium

Zynsk

In my personal opinion I thought the whole thing was really quite lame. Just another example of sticking any old rubbish associated with the artist on the walls to fill up the space. Not enough high quality content to justify an exhibition about Gaughin. C minus at best but probably a D would be more truthful.

Hywel

Great work on tates' part, not keen on Gaugin though. Like a modern day Shoreditch chancer.

Julia Matcham

Brilliant exhibition. Great to see many picures only previously encountered in reproduction. Must have been quite an operation getting so many pictures from so many different locations. Also very interesting seeing the carvings. Some very beautiful paintings that put Gauguin very high up in the pecking order of great artists in my opinion. A tiny point: I kept wanting to know how old he was when he did certain paintings, and I think reference to his actual life span is only made right at the begining. Unless you make a point of remembering this there seems to be no other obvious reminder)even in the booklet. Congratulations a memorable exhibition in good space. I will be back.

dan

It was too crowded for me - I thought a reserved time slot would enable me to see everything, but it was not the case.

Harry Ball-Weber

Visiting this stunning collection of Gaugin's work had a very emotional effect on me, as I travelled to Tahiti twenty-one years ago, whilst working aboard a cruise liner (QE2), and I visited Gaugin's former home there. I was young and naive, and at that time art for me was for old people, who liked looking at boring paintings in stuffy galleries. My eyes and mind were opened rapidly to the beauty of the island - commercial as it was - and I could understand the passion Gaugin must have felt for the place. I fully understood why he simply didn't want to leave paradise for what would then have been a very oppressed Europe. I've often longed to re-visit Tahiti. Now, thanks to Tate Modern my memory is refreshed and I will definitely visit the exhibition several times again...I'm also looking into flights to the Polynesian islands...www.harryball-weber.com

Nick Coomber

I was blown away by how beautifully he used colour in his paintings, to see the actual paintings and their vibrancy up close was truly inspiring. I will be back to see them again.

philip townsley

I was reticent that I would not really enjoy the Gauguin exhibition, having studied the painter in a small way for an OU Modern Art credit in the past, which concentrated only on his Tahitian women - and finding his work limited. However, ended up really, really engaging with his work. I enjoyed especially the early still lifes and portraits (unknown to me), and love how the flatness and decorative aspects, (as well as the wonderful colours), were vibrant, stimulating and soothing at the same time. I also fould his later portraits of women captured the personality of the women exquisitely in their facial expressions. I will return many times...

Naomi Collier

My enjoyment of the exhibition was deminished by the thematic organisation. While it may be considered old fashioned to treat material chronologically, it helps in understanding both the artist's own development and the context within which the artist was working. The exhibition visitor can then be left to make the thematic connections, such as spirituality, which keep informing the work. As it is, we have a variety of styles on display in each room, which distracts from an appreciation of the stylistic journey undertaken by the artist. Some wonderful works on view, but over-curated.

Susan Flawith

Enjoyed the Gauguin exhibition very much. Liked the way the layout led you through his life. Very comprehensive exhibition.

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