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Critical study on Paul Gauguin's Primitivism

Ma, Soon-Young 1

1이화여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article is a critical reflection on Paul Gauguin's primitivism. After Goldwater's seminal research on Primitivism in Modern Art(1986/1938) the study on the subject was revived in 1980s accompanied by the interest in the arts of the trivial and the artefacts. Even the primitivism of Gauguin was mistakenly suspected as the result of the colonialist by some post colonial historians, Gauguin still is named as the father of primitivism. Gauguin's primitivism has it's root in 'noble savage' tradition from the romantic age. The artist, who may be born and grown up within the nature of the primitive, ventured the primitive living in polynesian islands of the french colonies. The subject such as primitive landscape, simple life of man and deep religious faith etc. is from the experience of the polynesia. The primitivism of Gauguin is classified as the 'Romantic Primitivism'because of his ventured living in primitive world and his subject and attitude too. But to complete primitivism the subject needs the appropriate form, which Gauguin developed from the Pont-Aven period. The modern form of his art with his primitive content is a special strategy of modern art at all. It is the reason the primitivism of Gauguin is called 'Modernist Primitivism'. In a respect the concept modernist primitivism seems to be an irony. But if we consider the naive religious character or the simple rural life described in paintings of modern form of Pont-Aven period the conflict or irony of Gauguin's primitivism will be resolved. The primitivism is a plan or a necessity of the european modernity, which implies the limit to be realized perfectly. The method of 'Cultural Primitivism' which considers art as a total cultural phenomenon may be the best way to approach the primitivism including Gauguin's.

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