In this magisterial book, Henri Dorra synthesizes more than fifty years of study to present a comprehensive examination of Paul Gauguin's symbolism. Drawing on his profound grasp of the artistic and social contexts in which Gauguin worked, Dorra provides new, complex insights into and interpretations of Gauguin's multilayered symbolism. The Symbolism of Paul Gauguin is lavishly illustrated with a major visual compendium of the artist's prodigious output. The highly readable narrative, based on a sophisticated understanding of Gauguin's oeuvre, offers a masterly interpretation of recurrent images and their interrelationships in the contemporaneous artistic and social context.
Dorra discusses Gauguin's iconography and the artist's treatments of similar themes in various media, from prepatory drawings for paintings to related ceramics and wood carvings. He traces Gauguin's meanings in literary sources from classical mythology and the Bible to late ninetheenth-century literature. He also links the form and content of the artist's work to his unusual ancestry and upbringing. As the final scholarly work by an internationally recognized expert on nineteenth-century French symbolism, this book provides a profound new perspective on Gauguin and his work.
Henri Dorra (1924-2002) was Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books include Symbolist Art Theories: A Critical Anthology (UC Press).
“A valuable synthesis of Dorra’s insights into the artist, and a comprehensive and accessible account of his symbolism.”—Modernism/Modernity
“A pleasure.”—History Wire
“Compelling. . . . This book will stand for a very long time as a profound explication of Gauguin's enduring art. Though written by a scholar, it is accessible even to those with a basic understanding of 19th-century art.”—Library Journal
“This last exceptional work is, in many ways, the summation of [Mr. Dorra’s] pioneering inter-genre work, pulling together the strains of art and culture and looking at their reciprocal influences.”—Santa Barbara News-Press
“Beautifully written and refreshing book.”—Choice
"Modern Gauguin studies—complex interpretations of the works based on the identification of the artist's sources in ancient sacred art from around the world—began in the early 1950s with the pioneering research of Bernard Dorival and Henri Dorra. The Symbolism of Paul Gauguin: Erotica, Exotica, and the Great Dilemmas of Humanity,
Dorra's ultimate meditation on the art of Gauguin, constitutes a milestone in the history of Post-Impressionism."—Charles Stuckey is an independent scholar and consultant