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But if a court records radio sketches of men and women whose lives illustrate times and places south of the equator in the Pacific Paul Gauguin was a tyrant a corrupt tyrant. He acknowledged it and glory in it and two things stand can never be ridiculous. A child and a savage but I am also an artist a great artist.
Program six in a series of Pacific War produce by radio station WAGA of the University of Wisconsin under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Now speaking to you from Auckland New Zealand here is the planner and writer of the series Professor John Reed in the development of new countries the apps are usually the last arrivals to the Pacific. The odds came slowly white men had to adapt themselves to alien climes to rethink Western values under a copper sky to secure a living for themselves and their families before they could be a new dimension of human experience in the Pacific. But the poet or the painter to reflect. But before indigenous art put out shoots in the Southern Ocean the exotic appeal of this great sea and its legend shrouded Isles had attracted talented European ones who believed that there could be found not only
new material new sensations new visions but also a haven from the pressures of the Old World. It is one of the most colorful of these whose portrait we now sketch in lines taken mainly from his own writings pole. It was June 8th 1891 the eve of his forty third birthday that caught his first sight of the capital of Tahiti. After 63 days were 63 days of feverish expectancy. We turned the island of Moria and had the heat before us. The island is the summit of a mountain. Its painted sides drenched in mist with a character of solitude and isolation accentuated by the immense expanse of the ocean.
As the ship edged its way through coral reefs shining like ice in the tropical sun leaned on the rail devouring with his eyes inhaling the Island Breeze laden with the exotic perfume of Earth flowers women here at last. He would find peace himself in the fullness of his vision as he grew bigger. His mind ran over the parchments which had brought him to the Civic. Good thing may I have a word with you was the gap. Yes yes what can I do for you. I want you to accept my resignation with your resignation. What do you mean. You know one of the most valued members of the boss. You've been with us for twelve years. Don't you find your work. Yeah but have you had any better off. No I want to do great. You want to
paint. All the time. Yes well I know that you have been a Sunday painter but to give up a good position as a stockbroker just to cover a canvas with commas. I can't believe no one is a pain to Monsieur unless he loves painting more than anything else. Have you consulted Madame go get known. The decision is my own. You must be mad. Once a man is committed to what you're really committed there is no escape. So the Sunday painter thirty five years old shook the bushes from his shoulders to pursue a vision of beauty. He carried the news home to his Danish wife meta and her five children. He remembered the look on her face hurt and bewildered when he told her that now they must live on what he earned by his brush hints for me. I paint all the time. Only the vision sustained him during the next unbearable months in ruins when nothing went right. We're not even says arms and the sorrows old. What chance was there for a poor
imitator of the sorrow. So off to Denmark to eat the bread of charity from his wife's family. I hate Denmark profoundly hates climate its inhabitants. I hate the smug Dade's family I am of course the monster who never earns a penny. And that in Denmark is the standard by which one is judge. He fled from the stifling middle class atmosphere of Copenhagen to freeze in Paris keeping off starvation by posting bills at five francs a day. Then on to Brittany where in the Gothic calm and under blue skies he began to find himself to feel the first radiations from that world a flat bright color which lay deep at the back of his brain. Still Meta in Copenhagen did not understand. She wanted a father for her children and a respectable husband while he wanted. What did he want. There is still a war between us. The wall of your bourgeois mentality. The difference between us is the difference between the Rocky and the man who lives on
his work between the mediocre and the creative. I know you don't believe in me as a painter but I am an artist a great artist and I know it. So again optimistic credulous and vain had two passions. Painting and women both were to destroy him as puppet approached he remembered how like daggers at his neck these obsessions that forced him away from France first to Panama then to Martinique where it seemed for a time that Gaga had found himself. There was an atmosphere of dazzling color which inflamed the secret vessels of his creative heart laughing statuesque women scarlet skirts pink walls golden flesh under the Midas fingers of the Sun Maid and his children became a dim memory free from the pressures of a money mad Europe. He would stagger the world with his canvases where two Nature is in me. The Indian and the sensitive. I have suppressed the sensitive and the Indian in me enables me to press straight ahead.
Fate decreed otherwise Gaga was stricken with dysentery. So back to France. Still in search of a new world of color to our own with Vincent Van Gogh they would inspire each other again. The tough minded cynic the radical rebel and the naive the sensitive the romantic together. But genius is a very solitary thing between two such beings as he and I. I sort of struggle was preparing one day the idea came to me to do his portrait while he was painting the still life he loved so much or some some plot was when the portrait was finished he said to me. It is certainly I read it is I gone mad. That evening we went to the cafe he took a light absinthe. Suddenly he flung the glass and its contents at my haid. I avoided the brawl and taking him in my arms went out of the cafe. When he awoke the next morning
he said very calmly My dear Gauguin I have a vague memory that I often did you last evening. I forgave him gladly but afraid that the scene might occur again and I might lose control of myself. I planned on going back to Paris but later the same day I heard behind me a well-known step short quick irregular. I turned almost on the instant as Vincent rushed towards me with an open razor in his hand. My look at that moment must have had a great power in it for he stopped and lowering his head set off running towards home. Returning next morning after a night in the hotel I saw a great crowd collected with some gendarmes pressing through. I found that van Gogh after going back home had cut off his ear close to his head. Gauguin is hot turned over as a thought of the little Dutchman painting like a demon in his asylum and his pathetic suicide. But he himself had become
totally committed the savage within him but not let him rest. Only the exotic would satisfy him only the dream of that island which seemed always just a little way further on the day may soon come when I shall run off into the woods of an island in those EMEA to live in an ecstasy of peace and art far from the European struggle for money there at the E.T. I shall be able to enjoy the beautiful tropic nights. Listen to the sweet murmuring of my heart in loving harmony with the mysterious beings surrounding me. Free at last able to love scene and die Gauguin believe that the Pacific possessed the primitive power which he could tap a key to unlock the images in his brain. So he decided to leave Europe behind to cut the thin cords binding him to wife and children and to submit himself to the tender caresses of Tahiti. He was a child a corrupt child. He acknowledged it and gloried in it.
I am two things that can never be ridiculous. A child and a savage. But I am also an artist. Great. Soul work they are paid by the sale of his paintings. Bhagat had come to the promised land. Friends and agents in France had agreed to send him funds and he was a representative of the French Ministry of Education unpaid to be sure but the position would guarantee some prestige as the boat touched the war. But puppet it was sure that all his pain lay in the past. My name is the plan. As an Army officer I was able to help God again. I knew of his work but at first he did not impress me. A tall man with untidy black hair a narrow forehead heavy lidded eyes and a great
beak of a nose. Judging arrogantly over a drooping moustache is the face of a brigand I thought and his clothes defied the world wouldn't stop those painted red and embroidered seaman's Jersey a worn jacket flowered with paint a faded leather coat wide blue trousers and a bare Ray tripping over one scornful laugh. Every inch a naive romantic I surmised when he finds out what we French have done to Tahiti back he goes on the first boat. Gauguin was delighted at first with the women with puppet itself. The silence of the night is the strangest thing of all. It only exists here without even the cry of birds to disturb one's repose here and there a big dry leaf or what doesn't suggest the idea of sour and it is more like the slight touch of a spirit. I can understand why these people can sit for
hours for days without saying a word. Looking at the sky I know that all this is going to take hold of me. God was still inhabiting his private myth. But soon the reality of the Haitian life began to seep through. Your life has become a burden. A day is Europe over again. I way of life and graffitied by colonial snobbism and the imitation grotesque to the point of caricature of our customs passions vices scented and absurdities of civilization. With his waterfront woman Titi Gauguin became a familiar sight in a day but I knew that the squalor of the place depressed him. So I found him a hut in the interior here of a colonial contamination had not spread. The inhabitants were friendly. The women came freely to his heart to pose for him and to stay. Gaga shared his European clothes and adopted the native Peru as if to
say I am no longer a European and in Noa Noah the book he wrote about these days he portrays an ideal tranquility in the evening. I have gone outside to smoke a cigarette. The sun rapidly sinking is already half concealed behind the island of Moria on my right. The contrasts of light make the mountain stand up sharply against the violet glow of the sky. In the silence I hear nothing but the beating of my heart. His eyes sang and his brush vibrated with new colors purple earth Arns flowers scarlet leaves glaring greenery he painted as nobody had painted for breaking the white light of Tahiti on the prism of his heart. He took a native girl younger than his own daughter to share his hot bit by bit. Civilization is leaving me. I live afraid I enjoy being animal and human pleasures. I escape from the factitious. I
identify myself with a native knowing that the next day will be like the present one just as freaky just as beautiful. Are they score. And all this joy of the sun flows on to my canvas to Haitian songs added joy to the perfume tonight. The dull tones of the women's bodies form a lovely harmony with their bit of the Koreans. From their coppery breasts trembling melodies arise. And are faintly thrown back from the wrinkled trunks of the trees. When. I visited Gaga often with his latest Vahey me as model he was working like a fury painting remarkable canvases dazzling in their freedom in which the golden and statuesque women and solemn idols gave them a tremendous sense of interior stillness.
But he was also a very sick man coughing up blood daily. My health is frightful. All these worries about money are killing me. In the last 12 months I haven't had a penny for my APD am I quite forgot in France his paintings and his book. No no our reflected piece like a still pool but his letters flamed with recriminations. He had expected money to flow to him so that he could paint in peace. It seemed to me that go against troubles were his own forte. Too much wine too much tobacco too many women and perhaps above all the belief that by wearing apparel and living with the Tahitians he had made himself a savage. I was not surprised when he returned to Paris after two years in 1893.
Arrived in Europe. He decided to show the critics to show the public he would show them by a great exhibition. Some of the critics liked it but the public looked like users together. Yeah it's green and black treatment like children's pale and white ugly women those great square feet and soldiers like broad noses not like it. Just look at these. I don't read don't I ran dog was i even the artists had their doubts masterpiece I wrote to you except to miss your go Gaz idea that artists must develop their sensations free from Christian that they will find this freedom best in faraway and savage sources. No he's wrong. That kind of art doesn't belong to him. He is the civilized man and as such he must Joyce harmonious
things very well very well the public had rejected him he would reject the public scene everywhere with Geminis called Anna with a monkey and parakeet. He prides himself on being taken for a rebel and eccentric he wears a long blue reading gold with pearl buttons and embroidered Russian vest and beach trousers and his feet are red and some bows. Carving him so back to Britain where he painted like an angel restraining his weakness for the superficially exotic and merely decorative. But the Japanese was his downfall. She spat at some sailors who resented her flaunting Garrity in their village. Intervened and his ankle was shattered badly said the surgeon it was never to go out of this place. I said back to my studio money and
disappeared. I make no money here. I have made up my mind to go. I want a free and peaceful without this Colonel's struggle against the embassy. It was a failure. He turned his back forever on rebelling He destroyed. He took back to his women had given him. When he came back in 1895 I found a small plot of land for him 10 miles from papa a day with a super bass backed looking across the lagoons and coral reefs to the dramatic peaks of Moria. He had not changed. He was
still the divided man the possessed painter the sick exiled person. He was still pursuing a world of color and peace that really existed only in his heart. Sometimes he was in high spirits. The landscape with its spiral and pure colors deciles and impassioned to me. I am no longer conscious of days and hours of good and evil. This is so strange at times that if some passes the very conception of it at others he was in the depths of misery. The disease which he shared with his nightly visitors his arm healed ankle his poverty made him see himself as rejected and abandoned. And then at the end of my resources at the end of my strains I made unheard of efforts during my first stay here. Where did they lead to complete defeat. Bad luck pursued me or my life. The more I struggle the harder I fall. Vomiting blood cursing faked railing at society for destroying
him. Gauguin realized in his secret heart that a civilized man has nothing to learn from savages. But he refused to admit it. He rationalized his lust as a free natural life. He blasphemed against the God of his imagining. He was stripped of everything to believe in save his painting. He thought he was dying before dying. I wanted to paint a great picture which I had in mind during the whole month. I worked day and night in a frenzy when I had finished. I had made a philosophical work which may be compared with the Gospels. This immense thing 15 feet by five god damn painted on sackcloth full of Nazis he had no canvas. He called it whence do we come. What are we. Where are we going. I could not see the meaning in it he assured me was there but as a painting it was marvelous. The expression of deep feelings welling up from this unhappy man. The nail had just arrived and having
received nothing from home I desired to kill myself. I went to hide in the mountains where my body would be eaten by the ants. I took arsenic. Whether the poison was too strong I don't know. But I vomited discarding mess after a night of terrible suffering when I returned home disgusted with myself. Life in death was resumed with death hovering like buzzards. More and more goddamn self-pitying dashing his head against brick walls of reality hated the life around him. He would move on too far to evolve and the Marquis says here surely was the final resting place among the jagged peaks long green valleys steep stone walls and like a calf in the of stupefying collar. But the Catholic mission owned all the good land very well. Gauguin would ingratiate himself. I went to Mass every Sunday at forst as I was to play the role of a good
Catholic. My reputation was made and the bishop without suspecting my hypocrisy was quite willing to sell me a small plot of land. Hypocrisy has its good points. The transaction over the mask was off alienated everyone say very near the Protestant pastor who acted as village doctor Gauguin went out of his way to shock the inhabitants and especially the Catholics. He filled his garden with blasphemous statues and mock grottos he covered his walls with postcards of a horrifying obscenity. His affairs with young native girls were the scandal of the island. I could only believe that his disease had rotted his brain. Part of the time Gaga swung in his hammock cursing with his foot hideously swollen the rest of the time he limped to his canvas to fling down rioting colors. He was a dying man but not at peace in his misery. The wrongs of the islanders preyed on his mind. He embodied these wrongs inflated by his imagination in a bio full report to the government inspectors.
There is a singular I or an A in this hypocritical esteem for the liberty equality fraternity under a French flag when one thinks of the revolting spectacle of men who are no longer anything but so much fresh can extend every way and at the mercy of the gendarmes. And with all this they are obliged to cry Iraq for the government of Iraq and the Republic. The inspectors rejected this document from a confirmed libertine. Google was convicted of libel given a three month sentence and fined one thousand francs and anguish she appealed to the court at Pop 80. But he was never to hear the verdict which pronounced him innocent. On May 8 19 3 I went to visit Gaga. He was in fearful agony. He had had two heart attacks and his whole body was talk with pain. I comforted him a little and we talked of his plans for new paintings. A short while later his boy ran over saying that he could not arouse his master. I hurried across and there he was stretched out lifeless one swollen
leg stillborn hanging outside the bed as if he had tried to get up. Think he'd gentle breezes of the South so nice that joy and tender play above my head. To the neighboring Iowa. You will find in the shadow of his favorite game as a band. Tell him that you have a sordid story of destruction. But what of the glowing canvases he left behind their extraordinary monumental calm at odds with the agonies of their maker. Perhaps the paradox of Gauguin the paradox of genius can never be solved or even expressed. Those artists and writers who tried to build their lives on the pattern of the Gauguin legend were doomed to disappointment. The
Pacific islands of his paintings exist in no map save that of his mind. He carried his Pacific with him to Paris to Brittany to Tahiti as my cases in his futile attempt to merge himself with the natives Gauguin or sowed among them the physical and moral evils he denounced in others. Yet it is hard to withhold some respect from one who at the very end could say I am but i'm not get beaten. The Indian who lives under the torture. Is he a savage. That is why my work cannot be imitated the work of a man is the explanation of that man.
Here is Professor Reid speaking from Auckland New Zealand to say a few closing words poll ground was not the last artist to seek a new vision in the Pacific. Although none after he managed to recapture the colors of his eye he was drawn by the same thirst for that early innocence that had attracted him and Melville like Melville. He found the reality hollow. This was partly because he saw the brutal bruising effects of colonial development the still uncompleted imposing of new ways on native peoples. The torturing shaping of an oceanic community but out of this chaos and out of personal pain go plot something bright mysterious and strangely compelling. The Pacific Islands through his canvases had added a new tang and a fresh experience of beauty to Western culture. The Modern Art of the South Sea is had been born. Who was. With.
Pacific portraits
Paul Gauguin
Producing Organization
University of Wisconsin
WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The attraction of the South Seas for the artist.
Other Description
This series explores various aspects of the Pacific region through dramatization, narration, commentary and music.
Broadcast Date
Fine Arts
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Producing Organization: University of Wisconsin
Producing Organization: WHA (Radio station : Madison, Wis.)
Production Manager: Schmidt, Karl
Speaker: Rains, Claude, 1889-1967
Writer: Reid, J. C. (John Cowie), 1916-1972
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-41-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:23
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Chicago: “Pacific portraits; Paul Gauguin,” 1965-04-19, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 17, 2021,
MLA: “Pacific portraits; Paul Gauguin.” 1965-04-19. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 17, 2021. <>.
APA: Pacific portraits; Paul Gauguin. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from