Gauguin & Laval in Martinique


The exhibition “Gauguin & Laval in Martinique” opens at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on October 5, 2018. The show will be on view until to January 13, 2019. Here are excerpts from the press release from the Van Gogh Museum-Amsterdam:

The Van Gogh Museum presents Gauguin & Laval in Martinique. This is the first ever exhibition devoted to a crucial, but up until now neglected period in the artistic career of Paul Gauguin: the four months that he spent in Martinique in 1887, together with Charles Laval. The colourful, innovative artworks that the two friends created on the island proved to have a huge impact on their artistic development and future careers.

Gauguin & Laval in Martinique unites a large number of the paintings, drawings and sketches that the two French artists created on the Caribbean island for the first time. Many of the loans are part of private collections and are otherwise rarely exhibited or published, if ever at all.

The Van Gogh Museum is home to several significant works by Gauguin and Laval from their Martinican period. Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo made the initial acquisitions for this collection as early as 1887.

As a part of the exhibition, contemporary artist Jean-François Boclé (1971, Martinique) reflects on the artists’ perceptions of the island with a unique installation.

In search of new art

In 1887, Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) and his lesser-known friend Charles Laval (1861-1894) travelled to Martinique. They hoped to swap what they considered to be the mondaine Parisian life for unspoilt surroundings, and craved a simpler, freer way of life. The two artists were looking for new motifs and inspiration to give their art fresh direction.

On the Caribbean island, far from the French mainland, Gauguin and Laval found subjects for new, ‘exotic’ paintings. They drew and painted the island and its people in warm colours, while developing their own styles. They experimented using bold lines, simplified areas of colour and complex compositions. Gauguin composed paintings from elements of sketches and other paintings, which he subsequently forged into new compositions.

In the four months that Gauguin stayed in Martinique and the little under a year that Laval was on the island, the two artists produced more than 20 oil paintings and many more drawings, sketches and elaborate pastel and chalk works. [. . .]

A unique exhibition

While Gauguin and Laval’s stay in Martinique marked a crucial phase in their careers and influenced their future oeuvre, this period has always been neglected; an exhibition has never before been devoted to this subject.

Gauguin & Laval in Martinique is the first time that a large number of the paintings, drawings and sketches by the artists are being united. Many of the loans are in private collections and are otherwise rarely, or never, exhibited in public – let alone in the Netherlands – or depicted in publications. The exhibition features a total of 81 artworks, 65 of which are on loan from collections in 12 different countries. 16 works from the Van Gogh Museum collection are included in the exhibition.

Gauguin used three sketchbooks in Martinique. Over the years, the sketchbooks were dismantled and the sheets found their way into private and museum collections all around the world. Many of the sheets are now being put on public display for the first time: a large number of sheets from the three sketchbooks were traced and united especially for Gauguin & Laval in Martinique. [. . .]

For more information, see

Also see previous posts:, and

Many thanks to Peter Jordens for information on this exhibition:

Exhibition trailers by the Van Gogh Museum: (4½ minutes, in Dutch, with English. French and Spanish subtitles/closed captions) (1 minute, in Dutch only)

Gauguin and Laval in Martinique, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, October 5, 2018 – January 13, 2019 [includes images of five paintings]
Apollo Magazine, September 28, 2018

The two curators, Maite van Dijk and Joost van der Hoeven, visited the Centre d’Interprétation Paul Gauguin, Martinique, and met with the Association Martiniquaise Paul Gauguin in February 2018. See (in French):

One thought on “Gauguin & Laval in Martinique

  1. Antonio De Robertis, knowned as van Gogh’ scholar leader at international level and his close collaborator Emanuele Della Bella, on tuesday 2 October, performed a protesting “blitz”, the second after the other one done in 4 July 2017, during the press conference of Gauguin and Laval exhibition in Martinica, that will open on friday 5 October.
    It was 4 p.m. when they fixed in the external side of the glass windows Musem’ facade, a18 meters long banner, with a spectacular action, under the astonished eyes of the visitors.
    The Museum security asked for Police intervention.
    The Police intervened one hour after the banner e yet exhibited.
    The “blitz”, was the cause of 2 hours’ delay, because of the Police request for removal of the banners, as iIt is possible to see in photos and videos in which a change of conduct was strongly requested, as the Museum is since time more interested in the business snd promotion of the brand name “Vincent”, that in research studies.

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