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Tate Modern’s new exhibition calls Gauguin “maker of myth”. What he was after was visionary content, something psychically deeper than impressionism’s flickering sensations. He was not the first to look for it in versions of the exotic – French artists from Delacroix in Algiers to Rousseau at the Jardin des Plantes preceded him. But he was exceptional in seeking in the South Seas to reinvent his way of life so that man and art became fused: a living legend – or a canny publicity job.
Gauguin’s real significance, as this exhibition shows, was not as a formal innovator but, in a Europe sick of its cultural limitations, as the force unleashing the primitivism that made modern art possible.
Read the full text of Jackie Wullschlager’s Gauguin review
‘Gauguin: Maker of Myth’, Tate Modern, London, to January 16