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 


Vicki Carroll

Thanks for encouraging feedback on this exhibition. In fact, I had been about to contact you to say how innovative and inspiring I thought it was. The way it was laid out geninely encouraged me to focus on those aspects of Gauguin's work I had not known about before. It also, I think, effectively highlighted the connection between the emotional and evolutionary style of Gauguin's life and work. Compared to this, the new Monet exhibition in Paris was very pedestrian; perhaps partly because Monet was a less innovative artist (?).

Caroline Mansfield

Thank you for showing an interest in what a customer as opposed to a critic thinks. My heart always sinks when an exhibition is named a blockbuster as this invariably means it will be very crowded and the Gauguin exhibition was exactly that. I would have been interested to explore the different forms of his work on display but the constant sidestepping to avoid being trodden on and the craning of my neck to catch a glimpse of the works was exhausting and no fun at all. The thematic layout was not to my taste as I prefer chronological. I will try to go again at a later date.

Marianne Rance

my 8 year old and I really enjoyed the show. Some children's content on the ipod audio guide would have been the icing on the cake!


I agree with the above comments. I would have loved to see Gauguin's evolution as a painter. But I still enjoyed the exhibition very much. It was fantastic!

Armelle Soymié

This is a beautiful exhibition as all the ones we saw at the Tate Modern. Congratulations! Everything is perfect except for the crowd. I was a bit desappointed visiting the bookshop after since I love to buy leaflets or magazines about the exhibition I just visited. I was only able to find the beautiful and heavy catalogue.


Not classing myself as a fan of the man I was really pleased that I gave this exhibition a whirl. The diversity of the exhibits is what really impressed me, having them in chronological order would not really have made a difference.


I very much liked the exhibition. The way it was structured worked well for me although I also understand the comments made about preferring a chronological order. The exhibition certainly helped me to better apprehend the person Gauguin as well as his art. I also discovered his drawings, which I was not aware of and I enjoyed these very much (at least some of them). It was a pity that the exhibition was so crowded though!


The exhibtion was impressive. I went on a Sunday and while crowded the ushers at the door did try to keep the numbers down. I thought the comments in each room were quite good as Gauguin was an interesting person in his life. A true talent and quite a rascal as well. His art took control of everything. I really can't imagine the impact his art must had on Europe in the late 1800's.


I enjoyed the exhibition. I agree with earlier comments about the size of comments next to the art works being small and hard to read in a crowded exhibition. Unluckily for me I visited when the exhibition was packed, viewing the paintings from several yards between heads is possible not so with the comments, how about a larger font placed higher up?


I found this exhibition very uncomfortable viewing, despite having a fair idea of Gaugin's proclivities. The power of the paintings when seen up close made my flesh creep - it seemed to amplify the undercurrents of exploitation and abuse. I was surprised at how repulsed I felt - would normally return several times to a major exhibition but not this time! No reflection on the quality of the curation,the reverse I think - very powerful.

Coral Howard

I am pleased that Tate Modern are interested in the responses of members, although I am unsure how our reactions can be taken on board once an exhibition is actually underway. I enjoyed the exhibition very much and was interested in the thematic arrangement, but having seen lots of Gauguin's work in Brittany, I was aware that much of his early work was not presented. A time line of development could have been helpful at some point in the show. The arrangement of the audio information was a little confusing, and the lighting was so low that at times it was clearer to look at the image on the handset, which cannot be the main idea. I assume it is to protect the paintings but many of them were almost in darkness. I loved the drawings and fine life painting in the pictures of the children and Tahitian women. I think we are grown up enough to call the carved house surround, the house of orgasm! It was interesting to see the contrast of myth and reality in Gauguin's presentation of the dream of the South Seas. The inclusion of wood carving and ceramics contributed to our appreciation of his wide body of work. It is work of its time, so perhaps some broader contextual background could have been helpful. A show I will return to. Will my responses be the same?

Coral Howard

I am pleased that Tate Modern are interested in the responses of members, although I am unsure how our reactions can be taken on board once an exhibition is actually underway. I enjoyed the exhibition very much and was interested in the thematic arrangement, but having seen lots of Gauguin's work in Brittany, I was aware that much of his early work was not presented. A time line of development could have been helpful at some point in the show. The arrangement of the audio information was a little confusing, and the lighting was so low that at times it was clearer to look at the image on the handset, which cannot be the main idea. I assume it is to protect the paintings but many of them were almost in darkness. I loved the drawings and fine life painting in the pictures of the children and Tahitian women. I think we are grown up enough to call the carved house surround by its actual name. It was interesting to see the contrast of myth and reality in Gauguin's presentation of the dream of the South Seas. The inclusion of wood carving and ceramics contributed to my greater appreciation of his wide body of work. It is artwork of its time, so perhaps some broader contextual background could have been helpful. A show I will return to. Will my responses be the same?

Jeff Baker

Brilliant exhibition. Gauguin driven, perverted and probably a bit mad, and probably pretty unpleasant in many respects but a great artist. Not an unusual combination in painters! It's easy to forget how completely different and fresh his work was as we are now so used to it; and revolutionary use of colour. Spooky stuff but the Breton pictures really wonderful. Didn't mind the 'thematic' approach - the pictures are still great and really interesting to get the clogs, carvings and prints too. Well done for getting such fine works from all over the world. MUST MUST get the captions in bigger print though - can't always get close in crowded galleries.

Linda Culm

It was very crowded, but I felt we were able to see everything. But why is the writing that accompanies each picture so small? I felt I was constantly hindering people's view, as I had to peer so close just to be able to read the captions.


I enjoyed the exhibit and was impressed that it was so extensive. However, my enjoyment was somewhat marred by the over heated exhibition space and the people who were just there to socialize rather than look at the art; they stood around chatting in large groups blocking other peoples access to the works on show.

John Sheppard

I have always enjoyed Gauguin's work. There is a lot of criticism in some of the entries above. I do not share it -thank you Tate Modern for this exhibition and the opportunity to learn more about the man and see his work. In my view the thematic arrangement was appropriate.

Jan Williams

My husband and I enjoyed the exhibition and were most interested in the 3D objects. We should both have been happier with a chronological display, although we appreciate why the works are arranged as they are.

We found the exhibtion crowded and, as usually happens, where the audio/multimedia guide focuses on a particular work there was a hold-up. Pupils sitting in front of works, spreading their art materials over the floor, did not help in congested areas, especially when a work was a very popular choice for them.

What we both found most difficult to cope with were the captions, which were invariably placed some way from the work and in small print. People of a certain age were having great difficulty reading them.

Nevertheless, this is an exciting venture with a chance to see works from various collections.

Paul Ashurst

I've never been that interested in Gauguin's work. Last week I saw a documentary about him and was amazed at how little I knew about him. Also thought his work on TV looked as dreary as Georgia O'Keefe-dull dry paintwork etc- As a member of Tate I thought that I'd go see the show as I've paid my money and want to get value from the expenditure. I was absolutely enthralled at how spectacularly beautiful the paintings are- his way of putting reddy browns next to sumptuous greens and his use of rose and lilac and orange are so hedonistic- and the handling of the paint is always animated- what a total delight!

Christine Riding

Thanks to everyone for posting comments. Fascinating, varied but always thoughtful and thought-provoking (for me in particular).

Dear Geraldine, I'm fascinated by what you wrote! I've forwarded your comment to Belinda Thomson, guest curator of our exhibition, to see what she thinks. I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Many thanks. C

Dear Richard and Linda, I absolutely agree with you. Going to Brittany had such an impact on me too. One of my blogs talks about this (hopefully, it'll be posted on Friday). Thanks for your lovely comments. C

Dear Sandra, I've spoken to other people who had very emotional reactions to 'Nevermore'. Was it the painting that moved you? Or were you empathising with the female subject? Its a very melancholy image... C

John Sheppard

I have always enjoyed Gauguin's work. Thank you Tate Modern for this exhibition and the opportunity to learn more about the man and see his work. In my view the thematic arrangement was appropriate.

Pat Orme

Superb exhibition : it was the colours which really were outstanding - those deep blues, greens and oranges showing the sun shimmering into pockets of darkness. Gauguin had never been one of my favourite artists before - I had missed in the past the tender portraits of Aline, and mothers and children on Tahiti. I'm so glad I read up before I came; particularly revealing is New Horizons 'The Quest for Paradise,'which doesn't condemn Gauguin. I loved the lime carvings and his sculptures. I came away with Waldemar Januszczak's video, and watched it that night, and will do so again. Thanks for the exhibition, but can we have larger captions on the wall, or larger print cards to return at the end? And what can be done about those listening on ear-phones who stand in front of the paintings and twiddle knobs oblivious to everyone else?

Michael Slater

An excellent exhibition which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I don't agree with the comments criticising the thematic approach. Its was interesting to see the connections between works from different periods. We hired the audio guide and thought this was well done.

We came down to London from the north west for the weekend, with a visit to the exhibition as one of our main objectives (we also visited the Muybridge exhibition at Tate Britain). We took about 2 hours to get around all the rooms and were exhausted by the end of the visit. Yet weren't able to look at everything properly. There was too much to take in during one visit. In particular, we weren't able to look around the two rooms with the documents on his life properly.

Unlike those living in London and the south, we won't be able to visit again, which is a pity.

I feel that a smaller, more focused exhibition may have been more useful. Fewer works, carefully selected could still bring out the key points and perhaps viewers who could only visit once would actually learn more by being able to take the time to view the works properly and look at the contextual material too.

I could comment on how major exhibitions are always in the south, but I do think the Tate is much better than other national galleries - showing major works and some exhibitions in Liverpool.

Despite this,we did thoroughly enjoy our visit.

Mr T

Paid £47 for the tickets and £39 train fares to go to this exhibition with my family. The rooms were so crowded it was impossible to see anything. What is the point of having timed tickets if you don't keep the numbers to a manageable level? I feel like I have been well and truly ripped off.

sharon swaine

i think i agree with much of what is being questioned here. I am not sure that the curation does enough to raise questions about his aims, methods and programme. Of course, he was a great colourist and a clever self publicist and his story is not without interest, but surely its the job of a curator to critically analyse an artists project within the exhibition itself and not just in the catalogue. Given the racism implicit in the later work i was surprised to find little that addressed this issue. did the curator speak to anyone who is knowledgeable about racisim before deciding on how to exhibit these works? i am very disappointed with the exhibition and with the tate.

Graham Duff

Christine: the picture I most liked, seemed to me to be one out of character. I can't remember it's title, but it was of a woman spinning on a hillside in Brittany, I think? Can you tell me something about this picture please? (Hope you know the one I mean?)

Rosa Genchi

I am also not interested in sharing any of the above criticism as I am aware of the great effort and energy needed to assemble such a large dysplay of work. Tate is great! It was such a treat to observe and being absorbed by Gauguin colourful landscapes and patterns, in perfect contrast to the colour of tahitian people. It was insightful the contrast between the proportions of the people praying and the altered proportions of their projections about the Angel and Jacob while wrestling. A very witful device... And of course one would go on and on about judging Gaugain's personality and behaviour, is it worthy? Picasso also was a womaniser...I am interested in the artistic expressions of these masters and learn from them. However, most of the artists live unconventionally and express/feel differently. I simply respect and welcome their wit.

Maureen Taylor

The exhibition was far too crowded and ventilation was poor. Gauguin is not my favourite artist but I went hoping to learn something new and to have my prejudices dispelled. Unfortunately this was not to be as it was impossible to actually see the paintings without being jostled and pushed. Given the cost of the tickets, this was very disappointing and completely spoilt the day.

Julie-ann Rowell

Yes the iPlayer was fantastic. I also feel without it the exhibition would have been a very different experience (entirely hopeless!)

Harry Belthorpe

Loved seeing the paintings however I had a real problem with the audio guide and the overall message that was put across by the way the exhibition was hung. I wish Tate modern would stop trying to tell me what to think and how to think it. Should have guessed really as the main galleries are still using the themed rooms approach such as 'poetry and dream' or 'energy and process' or 'chicken and mushroom' etc, etc. To sum up what cheesed me off..... I had correctly guessed before going (due to the 'maker of myth' title) that this was going to be another lefty perspective banging on about a real truth behind the myth and wanting to strip everything down to a social and political level. Such as the observation that Tahitian women didn't frolic around with bare breasts at the time of Gauguin and therefore this particular painting was a made up naughty postcard to sell to French toffs back in Paris. This puts Gauguin in the same realm as Canaletto with his picture postcard views of Venice, (another easy dismissal that I'm not sure of). I couldn't care whether these women were supposed to be from Tahiti or Torquay! What comes across in the painting was something far more profound and spiritual that cannot be explained and which terrifies those critics who either can't see or feel it or wish to hell it wasn't there. And while I'm ranting...all the news paper clippings and such in the Life and Times rooms were a waste of space. I don't go to galleries for a history lesson. But again I say great paintings, just needed to nail them up really. However that would result in the role of curator being far less important and that wouldn't be good for the old CV would it?

ann harris

Far too hot and crowded to enjoy the paintings. I gave up and will possibly try again if I can find the time.

Julie-ann Rowell

I thought the Gauguin exhibition was superb, I learnt great deal, especially about how Gauguin became a mythmaker, like so many artists!

However, there were far too many people. It was very difficult to see the paintings properly, I was constantly being shoved and elbowed, and ultimately it was a battle. Not much fun. I may actually be put off attending anything else at the Tate.


To be honest I find difficult to make comment about the actual exhibition, overshadowed as it was for me by the crowds. It was such a struggle just to get round the exhibiton, let alone view and contemplate Gauguin's work. Tate Modern is such a great space but it is over populated and noisy.

Roy Edwards

It was entirely my mistake that I visited the Gaugin exhibition yesterday afternoon when the Tate was overcrowded with very young schoolchildren, who were almost always not under the control of their guardians. I would encourage parents to take their children to museums and art galleries but why doesn't the Tate have special times during the school holidays for such groups. Having said that, it was wonderful to see the young children drawing their postcard size pictures and seeing their work displayed. Like other bloggers I would suggest that the staff should keep a watchful eye on the numbers inside the first few halls and regulate the flow, so that visitors have more time and space to view what is an excellent exhibition. The iPlayer was first rate and whilst I am not familiar with this technolgy I quickly got the hang of the euipment which allowed me to be very much involved in this superb exhibition. In fact, without the iPlayer my visit would have been quite disappointing. I hope to see the Exhibition again; hopefully at a quieter time.

Doug MacMahon

Well worth the visit, but I can only echo the previous comments that even at 11.30 on Wednesday it was too crowded to fully appreciate the full majesty of his work. Will definitely try to return at a quieter time - but could not the air-con/flow be improved - it felt more like a sauna than a gallery? At least the fresh air on the balcony overlooking that fabulous vista of St Paul's and the City was refreshing!

nicola hill

Thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition,well laid out and apart from the first room the crowd didn't bother me! I brought my mother and 7 year old daughter who for 1 hour and a half hours were totally engaged in the art work and I must say that was down to the fantastic accompanying audio which neither had a problem using! The only thing I would say is it would be good to have a separate audio for children as some of the information I felt she shouldn't hear...although probably went over her head!


I didn't rush to see the exhibition as Gauguin is not one of my favourite artists. HOWEVER, I was totally surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The painting were often so much more vibrant than looking at plates in books (which often is not always the case) I went as soon as the Tate opened on a tuesday. It was crowded but not unbearably so. I shall return to listen to the audio. This exhibition warrants a few visits!

Rachel M

I agree - far too crowded. Why sell tickets weeks in advance and in time slots and then clearly sell too many at a time so that people can barely get near the paintings to enjoy then? It spolit the exhibition. And I am not a member so coming back another time is not something I am prepared to do when I have already paid £15.00 (including the £1.50 "transaction fee") to squeeze in and out of a series of rooms.

Geoffrey Case

We visited the gallery yesterday and thought the exhibition tremendous. There were crowds (half term) but it wasn't so packed that we couldn't see and appreciate the work. It was good to see so many children charging about; as vibrant as the paintings. A successful exhibition means getting in lots of people, so crowds are part and parcel of success. I don't know how, other than buying the work or sneaking in during the night, one can have personal, contemplative moments. It's better than it used to be as not so many people wear hats.

A. Menshikova

First time in Tate Modern - fantastic! The organisation of the exhibition is excellent! Will come again. Thank you Tate!

Linda Smith

I visited this exhibition this week but unfortunately could not fully enjoy it. I have had eye problems for 20 months now and six operations. I found that due to the lighting I was unable to fully see the exhibits. It was also very crowded which made me feel disorientated. What a shame but it seemed that everybody else appreciated the exhibition.

Catrine Darriet...

I visited the Gauguin exhibition on Thursday 28 October with a couple of friends. Like all these 'big' shows it was an amazing opportunity to see so many seminal works together in one place; the works were dark, almost uncomfortable and vaguely threatening, in particular in the first few rooms. Gauguin clearly had some serious personal issues, and in line with other towering artists the man was in many ways a monster, a lier and a cheat. I was challenged by his allegorical work (the loss of virginity, the dead keep watch etc) while they also made me uncomfortable - the young girl lying on the bed looking at you from the corner of her eye while the hooded figure looks on, the possessive fox's paw on the girl's chest (surely that's her funeral cortege coming up the hill?), the often bored, passive or dejected expression of the Tahitian women, painted with a palpable voyeuristic eye, you can't help thinking whether they knew what Gauguin really had in store for them later on. And then on the other hand, the luminous landscapes, the extraordinary colours, the serenity of later works that envelops you and doesn't let go.

There were also areas for improvement: it was so hot in the rooms we felt unwell; tickets were expensive, why should this be an experience reserved only for those who can afford it? What about some late evening openings for a nominal sum? Works description were printed too small and sometimes too far from what they were describing; it was crowded but I'd rather see crowds at Gauguin rather than people spending their free time watching the X-Factor. Finally it was a shame that so many cards and reproductions in the shop did not manage to capture the colours of the originals. I only bought a couple of page markers.

In short, a dark, difficult, intellectually and emotionally challenging artist who also produced some of the most dream-like and serene pictures of modern times. Thank you!

Madeleine Garenberg

It was a very impressive exhibition, and I am glad I managed to see it during my London visit. Unfortunately the huge number of visitors Sunday afternoon made the overall impression somewhat fragmented, difficult to actually study each piece of art without other visitors walking in the way. One could consider to lower the number of simultaneous visitors to make everyones experience a much more enjoyable one.

Julian Hewett

It was so crowded, I didn't stay long. I'll try again in a month or so and hope there are less people.

Gareth Buchanan

I too went during half time and it was very busy especially with young children, but I think its good to enjoy an exhibit with the energy of people around you. You over hear little comments about the paintings that you can either agree or disagree with in your head. The first room with the portraits was jammed, and you couldnt really spend time with the paintings but once past those, the crowds eased until the final two rooms where some of the more popular ones were. I didnt use the audio guide but found there was a lot to take in on my own. I found the Life and times rooms interesting for context - its good to see his timeline and movements all in one place, and some of the reviews of his work from the time, really helped to put you there. There was too much in there to take it all in, but with a quick glance you got the idea. I liked the themed rooms, I thought it worked well - like the Sacred themed room, made sense when you saw them together like that.

Deborah Condon

Mine was merely a fleeting visit since I shall avail myself of a member's privilege to return repeatedly. My lasting impression of the experience was of a somber environment. The spectators were shuffling from room to room in a haze of humourless self-absorption. I expected these joyous paintings to be presnted in a more vibrant way visually, at least to convey some of the joy the artist took in creating them. I feel the presntation is overwhelmed by the intellectual aspect of the artist at times.Like other commentators on this blog, Gauguin's personality makes him hard to like, less user-friendly than say Monet or Matisse, which tends to colour one's appreciation of the work, alas. I am looking forward to returning and immersing myself in the undoubtedly fascinating background material concerning this very complex and uniquely talented person.

Rachel Jones

Responding to comments above about both crowding and children.

I visited yesterday (October 28)with a child (aged 13). I had hoped to be there at 10.00 as I realised that it would be crowed but was unfortunately half an hour late. Nevertheless we agreed that it wasn't too bad and we could clearly see the exhibits (better than the recent Van Goth exhibition, though I've no doubt that the crowding gets worse as the day goes on.)

I strongly feel that chldren should be encouraged and it was half term. I did feel that we met half the children in London either in the Tate or along the Queen's Walk! I only saw one piece of unbacceptable behaviour: a three/four year pulling at one picture and was tempted to intervene but fortunately the exhibit appeared to come to no harm.

I was a bit disappointed that there didn't seem to be any guide, questionnaire, quiz for the children (if there was it was not obvious- there was nothing about Gauguin in the main shop). There was an excellent children's guide written for the recent Picasso exhibition. Gauguin is big bold stuff that is likely to appeal to kids. Having to answer questions etc. really helps kids observe. I saw a number of French (?) teenagers there at the same time as us and if I had spotted the teacher I would have begged a copy of her questionnaire for my daughter. Even very young kids (aged 3 or 4) can respond to an appropriate questionnaire getting them to look for details etc.

Rachel Jones

Hakan Matson

The exhibition was great. Very well performed and good thought out. The audio guide was also very helpful and well done, until the very last post. I must say it was a big disappointment to learn I could have used my iPhone instead, and paid less than half. Better not to mention that at all.

Norman Harrington

This show is so important and is proving it's worth. Paintings that have only been viewed as illustrations before, during my studies, are now there before my eyes. It is only seeing these works so soon after the recent exhibition of Van Gogh at the RA does one get the contextual element firmly put in place and what a modernist this man was / is. To the curator - the layout is superb, being able to look at the paintings in category is a master stoke.

Many thanks

Jo Beggs

I thought this was a lovely exhibition and a great opportunity to see works brought together which are so rarely seen. The breadth of Gauguin's work was interesting as I have a tendancy to think only about the Tahiti works. My partner also really loved the show and knew very little about the artists beforehand.

However I found the crowds really spoiled my full enjoyment of the show. Particularly the number of people with audio tour headphones on who were totally unaware of anyone else around them and people with crying and crawling babies (I nearly tripped over one of these). I know there are quieter times to see the show but I had travelled from Manchester and Thursday lunchtime was the only available time for me. A shame as this work has a quiet contemplative nature that was drowned out.

Rob +Wendy

Knew hardly anything about Gauguin before visit- other than he was nasty to poor Vincent.It was often hard to believe that adjacent pictures were by the same artist. Somehow despite the colours and evident skill not sure I would buy his work even if they came to auction and funds available-other than perhaps those of his children which seemed his kindest work. Don't think we should depict him as a one man syphilis epidemic-can't imagine Tahiti in post Fletcher Christian and pre penicillin era was anything other than Paradise for spirochaetes. Great exhibition.

PS share views on awful frames PPS Will there be an amnesty for those who stole ceramic sunflower seeds? Not us obviously.