What: Gauguin: Metamorphoses
Where: The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art Exhibition Gallery
Review by Pilar Bee, NYC
Gauguin: Metamorphoses at the Museum of Modern Art is a comprehensive
This exhibition focuses on Paul Gauguin’s rare and extraordinary prints and
transfer drawings, and their relationship to his better-known paintings and his
sculptures in wood and ceramic. Comprising approximately 150 works, including
some 120 works on paper and a critical selection of some 30 related paintings
and sculptures, it is the first exhibition to take an in-depth look at this overall body
Created in several discrete bursts of activity from 1889 until his death in 1903,
these remarkable works on paper reflect Gauguin’s experiments with a range
of mediums, from radically “primitive” woodcuts that extend from the sculptural
gouging of his carved wood reliefs, to jewel-like watercolor monotypes and
large, mysterious transfer drawings. Gauguin’s creative process often involved
repeating and recombining key motifs from one image to another, allowing them
to evolve and metamorphose over time and across mediums. Printmaking, which
by definition involves transferring and multiplying images, provided him with
many new and fertile possibilities for transposing his imagery. Gauguin embraced
the subtly textured surfaces, nuanced colors, and accidental markings that
resulted from the unusual processes that he devised, for they projected a darkly
mysterious and dreamlike vision of life in the South Pacific, where he spent most
of the final 12 years of his life.
Though Gauguin is best known as a pioneer of modernist painting, this exhibition
showcases a lesser-known but arguably even more innovative aspect of his
The ceramics from Paris, 1886-1888, show the delicate and decisive touch of the
artist’s hand. A wonderful example is “The Mango Tree”, 1894.
“Women In the River”, 1893-94, is one of the many woodcuts that are
featured. The woodcuts could be stand alone works of art – they are magnificent
reliefs and carvings. Gauguin pulled mono prints from the woodcut, dark to light.
One can see the contrast of light and darks in the various editions.
“Hail Mary”, a watercolor monotype that is ethereal. I always think of Gauguin
as having a heavy impasto style, however his watercolor’s are delicate and
“Be In Love and You Will Be Happy” 1889, is painted lime wood. This I feel
could be the title of the show. There is so much love and spirit in each work of
Although another relief it is very dimensional. Gauguin has the raw talent to make
a 2-dimensional surface into a 3-dimensional experience. His creates a unique
perspective with the spatial relationships of objects as they might appear to the
And in closing, not to overlook the exquisite Gauguin oils – “Girl with a Fan”,
1902, oil on canvas. This piece gives you a glimpse into Gauguin’s process.
One can see where he rubbed out marks, kept imagery, and finally chose certain
colors. This painting has a very minimal and contemporary feel even though the
masterpiece was done more than one hundred years ago.
Bravo MOMA and Paul Gauguin!!