Gauguin’s Bid for Glory

From Smithsonian:

Gauguin-Te_Nave_Nave_Fenua-1892-631 Paul Gauguin did not lack for confidence. “I am a great artist, and I know it,” he boasted in a letter in 1892 to his wife. He said much the same thing to friends, his dealers and the public, often describing his work as even better than what had come before. In light of the history of modern art, his confidence was justified.

A painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramist and writer, Gauguin stands today as one of the giants of Post-Impressionism and a pioneer of Modernism. He was also a great storyteller, creating narratives in every medium he touched. Some of his tales were true, others near-fabrications. Even the lush Tahitian masterpieces for which he is best known reflect an exotic paradise more imaginary than real. The fables Gauguin spun were meant to promote himself and his art, an intention that was more successful with the man than his work; he was well known during his lifetime, but his paintings sold poorly. “Gauguin created his own persona and established his own myth as to what kind of a man he was,” says Nicholas Serota, the director of London’s Tate, whose exhibition, “Gauguin: Maker of Myth,” traveled last month to Washington’s National Gallery of Art (until June 5). “Gauguin had the genuine sense that he had artistic greatness,” says Belinda Thomson, curator of the Tate Modern’s exhibition. “But he also plays games, so you are not sure whether you can take him literally.”

More here.