Gauguin at the National Gallery review – portrait of a troubling talent | Documentary films

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The National Gallery’s new exhibition, Gauguin Portraits, gets its own gallery film for anyone unable to get to London to see the thing. Opening with a brief introduction from National Gallery director Gabriele Finaldi, this does very much what it says on the tin: an hour-long profile of the painter, followed by a wander around the exhibition itself.

Gauguin, of course, is one of the key figures in the blockbuster generation of post-impressionist painters who are meat and drink to the international exhibition circuit (as well as the ancillary films made about them). But, as an artist, he has become problematic: his interest in, and paintings of, Polynesian girls in their early teens has put his work in the firing line. To its credit, this film doesn’t shy away from the difficult issues, interviewing descendants from his European and Polynesian relationships and inviting critics and artists to reflect on the potentially cancellable nature of his work.

There are other sides to Gauguin, too: his early interest in Breton traditional culture, and his brief interaction with Van Gogh (rather more significant the latter, it would seem). The details of his arrival in Tahiti, fuelled by what Gauguin would never have called entitlement, are pretty amusing. But it’s the work that casts its shadow: amazingly familiar from numberless postcards and posters, but now causing problems for the galleries who want to show it.

Source: The Guardian
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