Gauguin's Skirt by Stephen F. Eisenman

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Synopsis

An exploration of contemporary Tahitians and a long-dead French painter, sex today and sex in the late 19th century, and colonialism new and old. Written on the boundary between art history and anthropology, it reads like a biography and a mystery. Paul Gauguin travelled to Tahiti in 1891 in search of an exotic paradise. He found instead a French colony ostentatiously divided by race, sex and class. At once, the artist began to explore the complexities of his world through the media of drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpting. This work depicts ancient and modern Tahitians at labour and leisure and the Polynesian landscape; it also exposes the contradictory perspective of an avant-garde artist exiled from the modern French metropolis and from the secrets and traditions of indigenous culture. Based upon extensive archival and ethnographic research in France and Tahiti, Eisenman's writing seeks to challenge interpretations of the political and sexual content of Gauguin's pictures.
 

About Stephen F. Eisenman

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Stephen F. Eisenman is Professor of Art History at Northwestern University
 
Published May 1, 1997 by Thames & Hudson. 232 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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Paul Gauguin is generally thought to have understood little of the Tahitian people after his self-exile at the end of the 19th century. But in this original work based on a rich choice of archival pho

Apr 28 1997 | Read Full Review of Gauguin's Skirt

Publishers Weekly

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But in this original work based on a rich choice of archival photos and artworks, Eisenman (The Temptation of Saint Redon) argues convincingly that Gauguin was sharper than most art historians have thought, especially about erotic role-playing in Tahitian society, but also about the native people...

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London Review of Books

My worry was not so much for myself and my limen but rather for the London reader who might overestimate the significance of a male choosing to wear a brightly coloured lap lap or lava lava, the wrap-around ‘skirt’ that is endemic in this part of the globe.

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