Paul Gauguin 1848-1903 BACK

Gauguin at his Easel
Oil on canvas, 65 x 54.3 cm
Switzerland, Private Collection

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From November 1884 to June 1885 Gauguin lived in Copenhagen with his wife and family, and it was there that he painted this self-portrait. His letters to friends in Paris chronicle what was for him a difficult period - he missed the cultural life of Paris, disliked the Danes, his wife's family in particular, and the harsh climate meant that he could do little work in the open air. Increasingly he was forced to work indoors, without a model, and his subject matter betrays these constraints. His work became increasingly premeditated and he wrote to Schuffenecker, 'above all, don't perspire over a picture. A strong emotion can be translated immediately: dream on it and seek its simplest form.' However, in the execution, particularly in the flickering brushwork, this painting is still close to the work of his Impressionist years.

Gauguin's rather romantic characterization of the solitary figure labouring in a garret establishes the tenor of much later self-portraits, in which he depicted himself as artistic martyr, culminating in the series of works of 1889 in which he increasingly identified with Christ.

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