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Art and Ardor
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Nonfiction; Art history; Biographies; Books-titles -- -Multiple review
Author: Reviewed by Barbara Probst Solomon
Date: Dec 16, 2001
Start Page: T.09
Section: BOOK WORLD

Marital bad luck, laced with fame, poverty and grandiose dreams of inheritances that never quite materialized, plagued the lives of [Flora Trista] and her daughter ([PAUL GAUGUIN]'s mother) Aline. Flora's husband, Andre{acute} Chazal, shot Flora in the chest after attempting incest with Aline. After Flora recovered and Chazal was packed off to prison, she sailed to Peru to claim her father's inheritance. Pio Trista{acute}n Moscoso recognized her as his brother's natural heir but didn't hand over his brother's patrimony. When Flora returned to France, she published a bestseller: The Peregrinations of a Pariah (an attack on Uncle Pio), soon followed by her ground-breaking treatise The Emancipation of Women.

[Nancy Mowll Mathews]'s interesting account is well worth the price of admission when she is describing the connections between commerce and art in the l9th century, and the way these transactions involved families. Aline Gauguin's protector (and probable lover), the wealthy Gustave Arosa, highly connected to the Rothchilds, backed Paul's career as a stockbroker and later as an artist. Gauguin's wife, Mette Sophie Gad, was supported by her Danish connections and well-placed relatives in her efforts to sell art, and Theo Van Gogh backed both his brother [Vincent Van Gogh] and Gauguin.

Van Gogh's humanistic Dutch Reformist background -- he admired Thomas a{acute} Kempis's Imitation of Christ and Carlyle -- was totally at odds with Gauguin's more libertine past. Though their aesthetics didn't always coincide, they were united in their need to find a way of overcoming the stifling authority of Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism. Van Gogh, taken with Zola's notion that art needed a new artist to lead it to greatness, saw Gauguin as the forerunner, and felt that he, Vincent, would win out over the Paris salons because of his revolutionary use of color. The intense two months Vincent and Gauguin worked together in Arles changed the course of modern art; the color plates and reproductions of what they painted are impeccable.

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