Abstract Canvas Prints No 55 : L’Echo de Paris
Gauguin was unrepentant.
He had come to the conclusion that the Impressionists lacked intellectual rigour; to him they were incapable of seeing beyond whatever reality happened to be in front of them.
He thought that their rationalistic outlook on life denied art its most important ingredient: the imagination.
His weariness with them didn’t stop at their artistic outlook; he became tired of their principal subject: modern life.
Like the reformed smoker who becomes an evangelical anti-smoker, Gauguin, the ex-money man, decided that materialism was evil. At first he went to the artists’ colony in Pont-Aven,
Brittany – it was cheap, he was broke – where he developed a taste for pretending he was a peasant.
He wrote to his friend Émile Schuffenecker (1851–1934): ‘I love Brittany. There is something wild and primitive about it. When my wooden clogs strike this granite ground, I hear the dull, muffled, powerful tone I see in my painting.’
Slightly pretentious perhaps, but he was on to something.
He had done his time learning from others, such as the supportive Degas, from whom he took the idea of drawing a bold outline around his subjects, as well as the technique of dramatically cropping his images.
He was now ready to establish his own bold, new aesthetic style.
For Gauguin there was no such thing as half measures; so, if it was to be all change with a new approach to making art, then it would be all change in how he lived his life.
He was off to Tahiti, to be ‘a savage, a wolf in the woods without a collar’.
He told Jules Huret from L’Echo de Paris: ‘I am leaving to be at peace, to rid myself of the influence of civilization. I only want to create art that is simple, very simple. To do that I need to renew myself in unspoiled nature, to see nothing but savages, to live as they do, with no other concern but to convey, as a child might, what my mind conceives, abetted only by primitive means of expression.’
And, he might have added, to leave the wife and kids behind and live the high-life of a carefree bachelor.