Gauguin’s legacy as a painter is undeniable, but his lifestyle presents a challenge to our appreciation of his greatness. To some, he was a bohemian renegade, who broke free from Europe’s bourgeois shackles in his quest for creative liberation in the South Seas. To others, he abused the myth of the noble savage, abandoning his family to satisfy his exotic fantasies, while boosting the market for his art back home.
In the wake of recent scandals, and movements such as #MeToo and #StayWoke gaining significant attention, once-admired artists, writers, actors and filmmakers have been disgraced. Can we still love the work of artists whose behaviour we loathe? Is it ever really possible for objects of beauty not to be spoiled by the dirty hands that made them? Or could Gauguin’s artistic achievements even justify what he did?
This discussion poses questions about how we can (and if we should) make such moral judgements, inviting us to reflect on our relationship to art and consider what we take to be its purpose or responsibilities.
Tickets: National Gallery