Gauguin and the Voyage to the Exotic

Gauguin, the Exotic Canon

Paul Gauguin, the mythical artist who turned savage in order to find a new approach to art, became the new model of exoticism for the German expressionists, the Russian primitivists and the French fauves. Whereas manyof them such as Ernst L. Kirchner, Erich Heckel and André Derain studied primitive art in ethnographic museums, others like Emil Nolde and Max Pechstein set sail for distant lands in search of the “Other”.

Mujer tahitiana

Paul Gauguin (1848 - 1903) Tahitian Woman (Femme Tahitienne)

Oil on canvas. 72.5 x 93.5 cm.
Ordrupgaard. Copenhaguen, Denmark.
Ordrupgaard. Copenhaguen. Photo: Pernille Klemp

Gauguin’s painting, which defied any pre-existing classification, furthermore became a model for their formal experimentations. However, whereas fauvism regarded Gauguin’s primitivism as hedonistic and essentially aesthetic, the German expressionists viewed the exotic and the primitive not only as an anticlassical and anti-academic eccentricity but also as a new way of life.

Dos desnudos con barreño y estufa

Ernst Ludwing Kirchner (1880 - 1938) Two Nudes with Bathtub and Oven (Zwei Akte mit Badetub un Ofen)

Oil on canvas. 89 x 90 cm.
Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany.
© Museum Frieder Burda

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