This summer, the Courtauld Gallery has been hosting a major exhibition on the work of Paul Gauguin – a name that should be instantly recognisable to just about anyone with a passing interest in French art of the late 19th century.
One of the most exciting and original exponents of the Post-Impressionist movement, Gauguin’s work is marked by vibrant, bold colours and the influence of folk art from exotic locales like Tahiti and the Caribbean – the perfect escape from an increasingly wet English summer.
The gallery holds what it claims is the UK’s most important collection of Gauguin’s work. This comes thanks to the efforts of founder Samuel Courtauld in the 1920s – a pioneering collector who started purchasing Gauguin pieces as the formerly obscure painter’s popularity finally began to bloom.
In total, the institute holds five major paintings, ten prints and an exceedingly rare marble bust – one of only two sculptures known to have been created by the artist. To complete the exhibition, it has secured loans of two major works that used to figure in Samuel Courtauld’s archive – Bathers at Tahiti and Martinique Landscape.
Though he was born in Paris, Gauguin is known to have travelled extensively and the indigenous cultures of places like Peru and French Polynesia had a major impact on his artistic life. In turn, his efforts to evoke these locales in painting were profoundly influential to subsequent artists – among them Modernist masters like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.
Sadly, Gauguin – much like his friend and contemporary Vincent van Gogh – failed to find an audience during his lifetime. Only after his death in 1903 did his reputation soar.
The Courtauld Gallery is located in Somerset House, which should prove easy to reach for those staying in Montcalm London hotels. The nearest tube stops include Temple, Embankment and Covent Garden.