Looking for Paul Gauguin in Martinique

Snapshot Krabbe zoekt Gauguin ep3 Martinique (1)

A post by Peter Jordens.

Krabbé zoekt Gauguin [Krabbé Looks for Gauguin] is a 6-part television series produced by the Netherlands Public Broadcasting Service (NPO 2) in which Dutch actor and film director Jeroen Krabbé looks for the person behind the French artist Paul Gauguin (1848–1903). According to the NPO website, Krabbé travels to Peru, Copenhagen, Brittany, Martinique, Paris, Tahiti, and Hiva Oa in an attempt to understand how Gauguin’s time spent in these distant locations may have influenced him and his work.

Part 3 of the series, broadcast on May 15, 2018, takes place in Martinique. Gauguin spent time in Martinique from June to November 1887. Even though his time on the island was short, it surely had a significant impact on him as an artist. In 1890 Gauguin said: “I had a decisive experience in Martinique. It was only there that I felt like my real self, and one must look for me in the works I brought back from there rather than those from Brittany, if one wants to know who I am.”

Despite the passage of time since 1887, which includes the eruption of the Mount Pelée volcano in 1932, Jeroen Krabbé was able to identify several locations in Martinique which resemble those on the paintings which Gauguin worked on while on the island. Gauguin felt at home in Martinique, where he recognized the non-western lifestyle from his childhood in Lima, Peru. With expressive brushwork and warm colors, Gauguin captured the island and its inhabitants. He left for Paris with seventeen Martinique works. There, at an exhibition, he met Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh was very enthusiastic about the paintings that Gauguin had made in Martinique; he often mentioned them in his letters. In the autumn of 1887 Vincent van Gogh exchanged two of his sunflower paintings for one of Gauguin’s Martinique paintings. Theo van Gogh, Vincent’s brother, also bought two works, including The Mango Trees (1887), for 400 francs. It was his most expensive art purchase ever.






For more information about the TV series, go to https://www.npo.nl/krabbe-zoekt-gauguin/AT_2087412 or https://www.avrotros.nl/krabbe-zoekt-gauguin/home. Note: all text and videos on these webpages are in Dutch. The videos comprise the main, 37-minute episodes in the series (five so far, broadcast on May 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29), as well as additional footage in which Krabbé delves into key topics from the episodes. Because of broadcast rights limitations, viewers outside the Netherlands may not be able to watch all videos.

In a two-minute excerpt of the Martinique episode of Krabbé zoekt Gauguin, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dArm4ekWZNQ, Krabbé states (translated from the Dutch): “What became of his time in Martinique ―and one can imagine this very well here― is actually a transformation in how he painted and how he thought. That’s why this island ―and this is often forgotten in stories about Gauguin― played a huge role in his career. […] it was actually a start to what he would do later.”

[The above photo is a snapshot from the program in which Krabbé shows a beach in Martinique in the background and compares it to (a photograph of) a painting by Gauguin in his hand.]


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