Gauguin

Paul Gauguin, Vahine no te Tiare (Tahitian Woman with a Flower), 1891, oil on canvas

Photo courtesy Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen/Seattle Art Museum

When painter Paul Gauguin went to Tahiti, what he found was his new muse. His work might ring a bell—bright colors, Tahitian women, the lush tropics. But what about the art that was already on his adopted island? Seattle Art Museum pairs native South Pacific pieces with the Frenchman’s best in the show Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise, opening February 9. This is gonna be a big one, folks, and tickets are on sale now.

Seattle is the only American stop for the show, which shows how Gauguin was influenced by Tahitian, Marquesan, and Maori works. The museum expects lines to be long; book now for events like In the Studio with Hotel 1000, a curator-led talk about the exhibit on February 15 (with free hors d’oeuvres!).

Gauguin was always a bit of a troublemaker, so no wonder that he supplemented his painting with wood and ceramic sculpture—"things that resist," says SAM curator Chiyo Ishikawa. "He liked materials that push back," she says. "He wanted to be contrary to pretty much everything. He needed to have conflict." In Tahiti, Gauguin was charged with libel, fathered children with local mistresses, and died of syphilis—sounds like he got what he was looking for.

Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise is at Seattle Art Museum February 9–April 29.