Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist at Art Institute of Chicago

“Perhaps best known for his paintings of women in idyllic Tahitian settings, Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903) was an artist whose career spanned the globe and whose prolific body of work flouts categorization. An expert at self promotion, Gauguin shed the social and artistic conventions of the time to defy definition and transform the perception of what it meant to live within the realm of complete artistic freedom. Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist explores the artist’s unpredictable and, at times, fantastical forays into the applied arts while situating them within his radically experimental oeuvre as a whole. Featuring his work in ceramics, woodcarving, printmaking, and furniture decoration, and their relationship to his canvases, the exhibition acknowledges the artist as a visionary and controversial figure.

Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist is the most comprehensive examination of the artist’s all-consuming interest in craft and decorative arts. Moving beyond Paul Gauguin’s renowned work as a painter, the exhibition features a diverse selection of his creative output. Featuring some 240 works, it includes the largest ever public presentation of his existing ceramics and groupings of objects reunited for the first time since leaving his studio. This unusual exhibition and installation considers Gauguin’s radically inventive art-making processes resulting from the material explorations of his many and varied residences from France to the Polynesian islands.” — Art Institute of Chicago

“It’s precisely an endless kind of art that I’m interested in, rich in all sorts of techniques, suitable for translating all the emotions of nature and humanity.” — Paul Gauguin, 1903

Paul Gauguin. Clovis Sleeping, 1884. Private collection.

Paul Gauguin. The Singer, 1880. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, MIN 3230.

Paul Gauguin. Te nave nave fenua (Delightful Land), about 1892. Musée de Grenoble, bequest of Agutte-Sembat, 1923 © Musée de Grenoble.

Paul Gauguin, with Émile Bernard. Earthly Paradise, 1888. The Art Institute of Chicago, through prior gift of Henry Morgen, Ann G. Morgen, Meyer Wasser, and Ruth G. Wasser; restricted gift of Edward M. Blair.

Paul Gauguin. Merahi metua no Tehamana (Tehamana Has Many Parents or The Ancestors of Tehamana), 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Deering McCormick.

Paul Gauguin. Mahana no atua (Day of the God), 1894. The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.

Paul Gauguin. Manaò tupapaú (Spirit of the Dead Watching), 1892. Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; A. Conger Goodyear Collection, 1965, 1965:1. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Paul Gauguin. Tehura, also called Head of Tahitian Woman or Teha’amana, about 1892. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, donation of Mme Huc de Monfreid, 1951.

Paul Gauguin. Self-Portrait with Hat, winter 1893–94. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, acquired with the participation of an anonymous Canadian donation, 1966.

Paul Gauguin. Soyez mystérieuses (Be Mysterious), 1890. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Paul Gauguin. Maison du jouir (House of Pleasure). Left to right: Soyez mystérieuses (Be Mysterious); Nude woman and small dog; Maison du jouir; Nude woman and tree with red fruits; Soyez amoureuses et vous serez heureuses (Be in Love and You Will Be Happy), 1901–02. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Paul Gauguin. Portrait of the Artist with the Yellow Christ, 1890–91. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, acquired by the national museums with the participation of Philippe Meyer and a Japanese sponsorship coordinated by the newspaper Nikkei, 1994.

Paul Gauguin. Arearea (Joyousness), 1892. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, bequest of M. and Mme Lung, 1961.

Paul Gauguin. Faa iheihe (Tahitian Pastoral), 1898. Tate, presented by Lord Duveen, 1919.

Paul Gauguin. Vase in the Form of Leda and the Swan, 1887–1888. Private collection.

Paul Gauguin. Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel), 1888. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh.

The exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago, l’Etablissement public des musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, and the Réunion des musées nationaux–Grand Palais, Paris.

Images courtesy Art Institute of Chicago