What? Are You Jealous?

The painting evokes a sense of Pacific paradise in which sexual relations are playful and harmless. According to Professor Peter Toohey, “this jealousy is not the product of a threat to an exclusive sexual relationship or jilted love affair – it is the result of one of the sisters having enjoyed more sex than the other the night before”.

So says Professor Toohey.  Gauguin.org counters:

Despite the title, there seems to be no rivalry between the two women, who are not talking. Rather, the question might be directed at those who would see the painting in the future and might envy Gauguin and his models their tropical dolce far niente.

We’ve discussed the incredible titles of Gauguin paintings before.

Over at Paul-Gauguin.net, you can view his works according to some ranking of popularity.

Last place:

Breton Village Under Snow.

First:

Here in LA, at LACMA, we have:

And a few others, none of them currently on view:

How about a wood carving?:

“Be in love and you will be happy.”

Gauguin’s ankle was injured in a fight in 1894.  This is sometimes referred to as “a drunken brawl,” or “a brawl with sailors,” but in this book

we’re told that

on an outing to Concarneau, he and Anna and a couple of friends got into a squabble with some children

(we’ve all been there, you’re at the beach and you get in a fight with some children).

Local sailors came to the youngsters’ assistance, and in the ensuing brawl, Gauguin broke his ankle.

Anna by the way was not Gauguin’s wife and mother of his kids, but his mistress, seen here:

who would dance with a little monkey for society gentlemen

Gauguin: what a piece of work!

Self Portrait with Halo and Snake

 


Barbarian Days

sometimes reading “the news” I am reminded of this part from Barbarian Days:

In the cemeteries in Tonga, late in the day, there always seemed to be old women tending the graves of their parents – combing the coral-sand mounds into proper coffin-top shape, sweeping away leaves, hand-washing faded wreaths of plastic flowers, rearranging the haunting patterns of tropical peppercorns, orange and green on bleached white sand.

A shiver of secondhand sorrow ran through me.  And an ache of something else.  It wasn’t exactly homesickness.  It felt like I had sailed off the edge of the known world.  That was actually fine with me.  The world was mapped in so many different ways.  For worldly Americans, the whole globe was covered by the foreign bureaus of the better newspapers – the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal – and, at that time, the big newsweeklies.  Every place on earth was part of somebody’s beat.  Bryan understood that map before I did, having gone to Yale.  But when I’d found an old copy of Newsweek on Captain Brett Hilder’s bridge, and tried to read a George Will column, I’d burst out laughing.  His Beltway airs and provincialism were impenetrable.  The truth was, we were wandering now through a world that would never be a part of any correspondent’s beat (let alone George Will’s purview).  It was full of news, but all of it was oblique, mysterious, important only if you listened and watched and felt its weight.

As the Jamaican cab driver said, the news is a Babylon thing.

 


When Will You Marry?

when-will-you-marry

What a title for a painting.  Heard of this Gaugin painting in an article about Qatar’s art scene.  Reportedly some Qataris bought it for $300 mill.  Says Wiki, back in 1893:

Gauguin placed this painting on consignment at the exhibition at a price of 1,500 francs, the highest price he assigned and shared by only one other painting, but had no takers.

Gaugin didn’t always crush it with his titles (Study of A Nude, etc) but sometimes he nailed it.  Here is Where Are You Going?

where-are-you-going

(sometimes less interestingly called Woman Holding A Fruit)

Of course best of all, Where Do We Come From?  What Are We?  Where Are We Going? at the good ol’ Boston MFA.

where-do-we-come-from

Charles Morice (fr) two years later tried to raise a public subscription to purchase the painting for the nation. To assist this endeavour, Gauguin wrote a detailed description of the work concluding with the messianic remark that he spoke in parables: “Seeing they see not, hearing they hear not”. The subscription nevertheless failed.

You can read about Geoff Dyer’s frustrating experiences with these paintings and Gaugin and Tahiti in:

white-sands

I was bummed I missed that dude at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, bet we could’ve had some laughs.