Samuel Courtauld was a big fan of the work of the artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), in fact the Courtauld Gallery is one of the best places in the UK to see a range of work by the artist, so to celebrate the connections between Courtauld and his home in Essex, a selection of prints from Gauguin’s Noa Noa series are included in Braintree Museum’s Courtaulds: Origins, Innovation and Family exhibition. This week we take a closer look at some interesting facts about the artist and these unusual prints.
1. Gauguin was mostly self-taught and didn’t become a full-time artist until the age of 35 – before then, he worked as a stockbroker.
2. Gauguin moved around several times trying to find a more authentic and timeless place away from modern civilization. He worked at Pont-Aven, an artists’ colony in Brittany, and with Van Gogh in Arles in the south of France, as well as further afield in Martinique, Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands.
3. The Noa Noa prints, four of which are currently on loan to the Braintree Museum, represent Gauguin’s first foray into woodblock printmaking, and only his second attempt at any kind of printmaking.
4. The prints were created as illustrations for Gauguin’s memoir of his time in Tahiti, but rather than depicting daily life or actual Tahitian stories they were products of the artist’s imagination.
5. The prints on loan to the Braintree Museum weren’t printed by Gauguin himself, but by his son Pola (also an artist) more than fifteen years after Gauguin’s death. The blocks’ surfaces are so complex that it took Pola two years to figure out how to print from them!
Find out more:
The Courtaulds: Origins, Innovation and Family exhibition, including the four prints from the Noa Noa series and a selection of resources about them, is available on the Braintree Museum website.
The Courtauld Gallery has a lot of information about Gauguin online, including an in focus feature on one of his most famous paintings and a short film with Curator Karen Serres about his work. You can also watch a recent talk by Dr Rachel Sloan that explores these works as illustrations on YouTube.