See the world’s first-ever exhibition devoted to Paul Gauguin’s portraiture.
The National Gallery of Canada is the sole North American venue for a dazzling presentation by one of the 19th century’s most influential and complex artists – Paul Gauguin.
Inspired by Gauguin’s impressive sculpture of his friend Meijer de Haan, from the Gallery collection, this landmark investigation focuses on the mature years of the French artist’s career, when he moved away from Impressionism and toward more symbolist representations in his art.
Through imaginative self-portraits – in which the artist assumes various roles – as well as his unconventional depictions of friends, family, and women in France and Polynesia, the exhibition showcases Gauguin’s extraordinary creativity in the field of portraiture.
Featuring paintings, works on paper and sculptures, Gauguin: Portraits brings together a unique and unforgettable selection of works from public and private collections around the world.
Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the National Gallery, London.
– Paul Gauguin, Diverses choses, 1896–1897
Enjoy a close encounter with the work from the Gallery’s collection that inspired the exhibition: Gauguin’s oak sculpture, Portrait of Meijer de Haan. Use the iPad in the gallery space to explore the sculpture in a 360-degree rotation, and zoom in at various interactive hotspots to learn more. Visitors to the exhibition can also physically explore the surfaces of this intriguing bust through a meticulous 3D reproduction.
Try your hand at Gauguin-inspired portraiture in our Portrait Drawing Studio located at the end of the exhibition. Display your work of art in one of the frames on the wall, or share it on social media using the hashtag #GauguinPortraits.
Born in France, Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) spent part of his early childhood living in Peru, sailed the world in the French merchant marine and navy, and worked as a stockbroker. Starting out as an amateur painter, he became a full-time artist in the early 1880s and exhibited with the Impressionists. Increasingly dissatisfied with the limits of naturalism, Gauguin defied conventions of representation and experimented in different media, pushing colour and form into novel expressive capacities. He created a Symbolist form of visual art concerned with the realms of dreams, imagination and spirituality.
From 1886 onward he repeatedly spent time in rural Brittany and travelled to the French colonies of Martinique (1887) and then Polynesia, seeking new subject matter in environments far removed from the Parisian art world. After an extended stay in Tahiti (1891–93), he returned to Paris where he aimed to confirm his role as an avant-garde leader. He left again for the islands of Polynesia in 1895 to live in self-imposed exile, all the while retaining the privileges of being European and cultivating his identity as an outsider searching for social and artistic liberation. Gauguin’s innovations and legacy became crucial for generations of artists both during his lifetime and well into the 20th century.