In the late 19th century, Tahiti embodied Western ideas of an earthly paradise. But could the real Tahiti live up to the Eden of popular imagination?
Experts discuss the realities of colonial Tahiti, and reflect on how Gauguin both wrestled with the elusiveness of paradise and perpetuated the myth in his art. We will also consider how Tahitians feel about Gauguin today.
|11 am||Christopher Riopelle, Welcome|
|11.10 am||Elizabeth C. Childs, 'Gauguin in Colonial Tahiti: dream, reality and encounter'|
|11.40 am||Belinda Thomson, 'Gauguin’s paintings of Tahiti: in pursuit of a meaningful 'Exotisme''|
|12.10 pm||Linda Goddard, 'Savage tales: Gauguin’s writings on Tahiti'|
|2.30 pm||Nicholas Thomas, 'Encountering Polynesia'|
|3 pm||Speaker tbc|
Elizabeth C. Childs is the Etta and Mark Steinberg Professor of Art History of 19th and 20th Century European Modernism. She has published extensively on key figures such as Gauguin, Daumier, Degas and Van Gogh and is author of 'Vanishing Paradise: Art and Exoticism in Colonial Tahiti, 1880-1901' (University of California Press, 2013). In her work on Gauguin, she has focused on Gauguin’s relationship to indigenous Tahitian and Marquesan culture as well as to colonial society, his work as a writer, his uses of photography, his interests in world religions and theosophy, and his construction of a primitivist identity.
Belinda Thomson is a freelance art historian and Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh. She has published widely on Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Vuillard and Bonnard. She has curated several exhibitions including 'Gauguin’s Vision' (2005, Edinburgh) and 'Gauguin: Maker of Myth' (London: Tate Modern, 2010; Washington, National Gallery of Art, 2011). In 2013, she received the French honour of Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Dr Linda Goddard is Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. She is the author of 'Savage Tales: The Writings of Paul Gauguin' (Yale University Press, 2019) and 'Aesthetic Rivalries: word and image in France, 1880-1926' (Peter Lang, 2012), as well as multiple essays on Gauguin published in journals and exhibition catalogues.
Nicholas Thomas is Director and Curator of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge. Nicholas first visited the Pacific Islands first in 1984 while researching his PhD thesis on the Marquesas Islands and later worked in Fiji and New Zealand. He has written extensively on voyages, cross-cultural encounters and art including 'Islanders: the Pacific in the Age of Empire' (2010). He curated 'Oceania' for the Royal Academy of Arts in London and the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris.