Tahitian pastors by Paul Gauguin

Tahitian pastors by Paul Gauguin

While Impressionist paintings are characterized by a certain stylistic unity, the work of Paul Gauguin, the third of the greatest masters of the post-impressionist period, does not at all resemble the work of Cezanne or Van Gogh. Gauguin decided to become a painter only in 40 years, and was self-taught. He began Gauguin, starting from impressionism and seeking to generalize color and form.

His best works he created on the islands of the Pacific, where he spent almost all his last years of life. In the pristine primeval paradise of exotic islands, the beauties of Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands, he sought refuge from the oppressive bourgeois civilization. Gauguin decided to surround his art with a halo of secrecy, hidden symbolism. The natives seemed to the artist to be beautiful, harmonious beings, living a single life with the surrounding nature. The chanting of the “Pacific paradise” is the content of Gauguin’s creativity.

Most of his work is solved in the form of a decorative panel, built on a combination of long arabesques and large planes of color, dividing the landscape into parts. Gauguin does not seek to model the forms, preferring clear, sharply outlined planes. With the help of bright colors, Gauguin reproduces an almost real feeling of heat. Gauguin portrayed Tahitians against the background of tropical nature. The naturalistic figures of women, their rude faces attract a peculiar, “wild” beauty. Monumentality of images, deliberate static, a game of large light spots, symbolizes the unity of man with nature in a world untouched by civilization.

In the Hermitage there is a picture, which the artist gives to the idyllic, albeit somewhat mannered, “Tahitian pastors”.

Here, as in his other mature works, Gauguin completely refuses to transmit lighting; the color of it becomes local and immovable. At the same time, it strives for a laconic simplification of form and a reduction in the prospective depth. The picture acquires a planar, decorative character.

Gauguin is more consistent and more persistent than other artists going to color synthesis. In its canvases, various tonal shades turn into stable, contrasting color combinations. So, in the “Tahitian pastors” of the river, in which the sunset sky reflects, are transmitted by a combination of crimson, blood-red and purple spots. The same spot of pure yellow color becomes a coastal sand strip, and the grassy opposite bank of the river is given by the artist in the form of an undivided emerald-green plane.

Extremely rich, simultaneously festive, bright and intense coloring, giving the canvas a resemblance to the oriental carpet, brings to the image the spirit of spicy exoticism, enhances the depiction of the depicted world from the dreary routine of “civilized” life. Gauguin wants to create an idyll: this manifests itself in a free and simple composition, in the slow, like lazy, rhythm of human bodies and plants.

The artist is trying to give a picture of an ideally beautiful world, although in the “Tahitian pastors” there is a certain shade of literary, even artificiality. And at the same time, in the figures of Tahitians dressed in short white clothes, in the details of the foreground – a vessel reminiscent of ancient amphorae, lying next to a frying dog – unexpectedly there are traits related to the classically simple and quiet spirit of antiquity. In the art of Gauguin – one of the sources of the Art Nouveau style that flourished at the turn of the XIX – XX centuries.

The painting entered the Hermitage in 1948 from the State Museum of New Western Art in Moscow.

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