Words of the Devil
Paul Gauguin
Words of the Devil

Gallery R
French, English and Swiss Paintings

Although many of the paintings for the Armory Show came from the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition in London, drastically changing the focus of that show, virtually none of the British post-Impressionists were shown in New York. Roger Fry, a logical choice for Kuhn and Davies, was not invited. Neither were Wyndam Lewis, Vanessa Bell, or Duncan Grant. Instead, the English post-Impressionists were largely represented by Augustus John, whose paintings were lent by John Quinn. Quinn not only lent generously to the show but also spent a year trying to lift the tariff on paintings from overseas. Eleven of John's works, all loaned by Quinn, were found in Gallery R. Also due to Quinn there were a large number of drawings and a few oils by Puvis de Chavannes, a symbolist painter whose murals could be found around Paris (at the Hôtel de Ville and the Sorbonne) and at the Boston Public Library. Puvis de Chavannes was admired by artists working toward very different aims, including Gauguin, Seurat, and Toulouse-Lautrec.

Gauguin's Tahitian paintings received the most critical consideration of the work in Gallery R; many critics compared his painting to Matisse's but saw Gauguin's work as a less caustic primitivism. Matisse's Blue Nude, subtitled Souvenir de Biskra, called attention to another French colonial outpost, a base in South Saharan Algeria. Compared with Gauguin's Words of the Devil (above) and Faa Iheie (Tahitian Pastoral), Matisse's painting is decidedly less concerned with creating an allegorical landscape or emphasizing cultural primitivism and more concerned with the formal treatment of the nude.

Other aspects of Gauguin's career as an artist were apparent in earlier works, like The Schuffenecker Family, and in his autobiographical account of his journey to Tahiti. Excerpts from Gauguin's Noa Noa were translated by Walter Pach and included in a pamphlet sold at the exhibition. In the narrative, Gauguin described his two years in Tahiti and his travel from French colonial city to Maori village, depicted as a shift from civilized to savage consciousness. At the end of his stay in Tahiti, Gauguin remarked, "Older by two years and rejuvenated by twenty, I go away. More savage than when I arrived, with more knowledge" (37). The artist's cultural primitivism was undoubtedly not as startling as his description of an affair with a French-Tahitian woman. The pamphlet was banned in Chicago as "lewd material" and taken out of the public's reach (Brown, Story 207).

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