3 x Gauguin for the glyptotek
3 x GAUGUIN FOR THE GLYPTOTEK
Thanks to a generous donation from the Ny Carlsberg Foundation, the Glyptotek has just received three remarkable works by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903). With this donation the Glyptotek has secured a significant and unusual supplement to the museum’s collection of Gauguin’s art, which is among the most comprehensive in the world. Already from tomorrow these new acquisitions can be experienced in the museum’s rooms of French art.
Gauguin is French avant-garde. Gauguin is Tahiti. And Gauguin is also – if to a lesser degree – Denmark, even though the French temperament appears to be incompatible with the northern latitudes. But as with other art heavyweights there are sides of Gauguin which have led a shadowy existence in art history. With this major donation from the Ny Carlsberg Foundation the Glyptotek can not only add three new works to its already substantial collection of Gauguin’s art, but the museum can now also, to a far greater degree, cast long overdue light on the Frenchman’s brilliant embrace of pottery.
Three Grotesque Heads
Today we know of a total of 60 ceramic works by Gauguin, of which the Glyptotek now owns 15. The three new arrivals, which were all bought recently at an auction in Paris, are atypical for Gauguin and differ markedly from the museum’s other ceramic works by the artist. Here we are dealing with a kind of vase which, at first sight makes one think of curious, over-sized ale tankards in the shape of grotesque heads. Gauguin created them in the years 1893-95, i.e. just before he left France for the last time on his second voyage to Tahiti.
One detects in the works an artist who is mentally preparing himself for his last Polynesian adventure. In the figures of the vases it is possible to trace a tradition of the grotesque, which is also recognizable in the work of other artists of the period, and which harks back to the stone demons of Romanesque and Gothic churches. As far as Gauguin was concerned, this is consistent with his ever-growing fascination with so-called primitive cultures, their customs and cult objects. Gauguin appropriates what he can use from both worlds and converts his findings into an imagery deeply personal and original.
A commercial flop
The vases were made in an age of epoch-making innovation in ceramic art – and at the same time in a period when Gauguin, in his own opinion, reached his zenith as a genius. Artistic ego and originality combine in a higher unity, which is tangible in the vases’ daring and highly imaginative modelling. In ceramics, moreover, the French artist saw a commercial possibility in mass-production, which the donation clearly demonstrates. Two of the vases are thus cast from the same mould and subsequently endowed with striking differences in nuance.
In spite of Gauguin’s both artistic and commercial endeavours, the big breakthrough never materialized. Even though his fellow artist Edgar Degas offered his support by a modest desire to purchase, the subsequent auction in 1895 was a commercial fiasco for Gauguin. He gave up ceramics and, shortly after, disappointed and financially ruined, he left France for the last time.
Director Flemming Friborg says:
“The Glyptotek has a Gauguin collection which is absolutely world-class, which we constantly seek to put into perspective through research and exhibition. With last year’s donation of a rare marine painting by Gauguin and now again with this generous gift the Ny Carlsberg Foundation has, to an even greater degree, provided the Glyptotek with a fantastic opportunity to illuminate ever new facets of an artist of whom one never tires. We look forward enthusiastically to sharing this gift with our visitors.”
Karsten Ohrt,Chairman of the Ny Carlsberg Foundation, has this to say:
“It is one of the goals of the Ny Carlsberg Foundation to enrich Danish art museums with exceptional works of great artistic worth, which would otherwise remain outside these institutions’ economic range. It is therefore a great pleasure for the Ny Carlsberg Foundation to be able to contribute, yet again, to the expansion and enrichment of the Glyptotek’s unique Gauguin collection, which is the largest outside France. These three particular ceramic heads exemplify Gauguin’s range and originality and represent a side of the artist known only to the very few.”