Primitivism in Gauguin’s and Nolde’s Paintings Essays

Primitivism in Gauguin’s and Nolde’s Paintings Essays

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Around the end of the 19th century, many modern artists in the west began stylizing their work based on the art and cultures of foreign countries. It was an era when modern artists like Paul Gauguin and Emil Nolde studied primitive cultures and created works that utilized styles and compositions not seen before in western art circles. Abigail Solomon-Godeau and Jill Lloyd focused their articles on how Paul Gauguin and Emil Nolde used their knowledge of the countries they researched, to create indigenous inspired paintings. The articles focused on how each artist used primitive paintings to express their impressions and experiences within the countries they explored. Relating primitive cultures to their western counterparts, Abigail Solomon-Godeau discusses how Gauguin uses his experiences, and created artworks to capture mythological speeches within his art.
After he was terminated from his job as an investment advisor in Bertin France, Paul Gauguin started moving away from an economic career in order to move on to a more artistic based lifestyle. Gauguin moved to Pont-Aven and began to paint in his now famous primitive style. While in Pont-Aven, he noticed that the people living there and the town was essentially 100 years behind 1880’s France both economically and culturally. He utilized the artwork of the area and borrowed from several iconic symbols to create his art. Symbols like the yellow wooden Christ found in the cathedral of Pont-Aven, were inspirational to his work. Several other locations like Tahiti and those of his 1889 Universal Exhibition, helped Gauguin to establish a mythic speech in his primitive style paintings. Abigail Solomon-Godeau states how “mythic speech” is presented with Gauguin’s work in her article, ...

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...ings like Pont-Aven, Tahiti, or Africa. The lifestyle and artwork of primitive-like cultures painted in the styles of Gauguin and Nolde have unfortunately now also become ‘gift shop’ tourist treasures. Even though Gauguin’s and Nolde’s work still holds popularity in legitimate art circles, the reality is that western cultures have pretty much absorbed virtually every corner of the earth. Their portrayal of primitive cultures has essentially become advertisements presenting vacation spots for westerners.

Works Cited

Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. "Going Native." Art in America 77.7 (July 1989): 118-29.
BlackBoard. University of Oregon. Web. 26 May 2014.
Lloyd, Jill. "Emil Nolde's 'ethnographic' Still Lifes: Primitivism, Tradition,
Modernity." The Myth of Primitivism. By Susan Hiller. N.p.:
Routledge, 1991. 90-112. BlackBoard. University of Oregon Web. 26 May 2014.

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