In Savage Tales: The Writings of Paul Gauguin
(Yale University Press, 2019), Linda Goddard investigates the role that Paul Gauguin’s writings played in his artistic practice and in his negotiation of his colonial identity.
As a French artist who lived in Polynesia, Gauguin occupies a crucial position in histories of European primitivism, but this is the first book to be devoted to his wide-ranging literary output, including his journalism, travel writing, art criticism, and essays on aesthetics, religion, and politics.
In the book, Dr. Goddard analyzes what are often richly illustrated manuscripts and she counters the tendency to interpret these writings merely as a source of information about his life. Instead, she reveals how the seemingly haphazard structure of Gauguin’s manuscripts was an important part of an artistic practice that ranged across media, one that enabled him to evoke the “primitive” culture that he so celebrated.
This critical analysis of his writings significantly enriches our understanding of the complexities of artistic encounters in the French colonial context.
is senior lecturer in art history at the University of St. Andrews.
Allison Leigh is Assistant Professor of Art History and the SLEMCO/LEQSF Regents Endowed Professor in Art & Architecture at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her research explores European and Russian art of the eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries.