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4.09.2005

 

Paul Gauguin, the beast


Left: Paul Gauguin, "Self Portrait in Stoneware", 1889. Right: Moche portrait vessel, North coast of Peru, 400 - 600 CE

So much attention is paid to the paintings of Paul Gauguin that only rarely do you find reference to his ceramics. Perhaps they're not considered all that important -- I just don't know. But it's his portrait vessels that give the strongest hint of the artist's Peruvian roots. He spent much of his childhood in Lima and his grandmother was the well known feminist activist Flora Tristán. Gauguin's heritage figured centrally in the myth he formed about himself. He wrote about the savage within him, alluding to the possibility that he had indigenous blood running through his veins. Never mind that his Peruvian great grandfather (and Tristán's father), Marino Tristán y Moscoso, was no Indian, but a wealthy aristocrat from Arequipa.

Mario Vargas Llosa's historical novel This Way to Paradise explores the parallels between the life of Flora Tristán and her grandson. (It's on my shelf with about 20 really enticing books, so don't expect a book report on this site for a long time.)

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