Gauguin: Portraits

Yale Univ. Jun. 2019. 272p. ed. by ed. by Cornelia Homburg & Christopher Riopelle. ISBN 9780300242737. $40. FINE ARTS
The authors, published art historians and curators, use Gauguin’s portraiture to show the late 19th-century origins of modern art, what portraiture meant for Gauguin, how he expanded the parameters of portraiture, and how his multimedia approach furthered his artistic expression and allowed him to capture the essence of his individual sitters. Through his manuscripts and correspondence, readers hear Gauguin talk about the subjects of his portraits, including himself, his family, Tahitians, Bretons, contemporary artists such as van Gogh, other friends, their mistresses, and notables of his day. The relatively freestanding chapters are tied together by the theme of Gauguin’s use of his portraits to represent his alter egos as symbolist, savage, savior, creator, martyr, and an avant-gardist suffering for his art. He portrayed himself as Christ, Buffalo Bill, a Native American, and a peasant to self-promote, self-mythologize, and self-aggrandize. Lavishly illustrated with numerous full-page images, this exhibition catalog is thoroughly researched, each chapter containing endnotes. Also includes a list of illustrations, a bibliography, and index.
VERDICT Written in a straightforward style, this book is not only a fine complement to the exhibition for visitors, but also for art historians, art history students, and engaged general readers.

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