Paul Gaugin and the Beauty of a Fallen World

I went to the National Gallery in DC and spent about 5 hours there.  My current favorite artist is Paul Gauguin, replacing Monet at least for now.  Monet is obsessed with finding the metaphysical essence of the nature around him, and seeing his paintings is literally for me a spiritual experience.  But this time around, even though I could feel the spirit in his work, I felt like I didn’t connect with it.  I just don’t see nature like that anymore.  I see darkness in nature, and even evil.  More than ever, I see this earth as a fallen world, and I don’t think God wants us to escape into the “purity” of nature or temple or whatever to get away from this fallen world.   I don’t think Jesus saw the world around him through the eyes of Monet, in it’s perfection and pristine spirituality.

That’s why Gauguin resonated with me so much more.  In his Polynesian paintings there is great spirituality evoked through color and composition, but also darkness, sensuality, and a lot of mystical symbolism.

One painting I starred at for a long time was “Words of the Devil.”  In the painting, an Eve-like Polynesian woman encounters a spooky woman with a mask, looking into a brilliant, blood red pool, surrounded by dark woods.  I don’t know why, but that painting feels like life, and like my dreams, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.  The museum had a couple more Gauguins and in each one, the colors were resplendently beautiful.  I felt like Gauguin, more than any other artist in the entire museum knew how to use color to full advantage.

I left the museum with a new appreciation of the power of color.  I unfortunately have little taste when it comes to color coordination, but I would like to learn.  I’m going to look for a good book about it.  I’ve already learned some good principles, like the fact that opposite colors look good together, like blue/orange, or red/green.  I try to pair brownish or orange ties with blue shirts, stuff like that.  As I’ve started to think more about color, I’ve started to recognize adroitly combined color combinations, even though I wouldn’t know how to create those combinations myself.

I think that designers and photographers may have an advantage over the rest of us, in that they are more richly affected by the colors, textures, and compositions that surround us.  I think this may help them live more in the moment, with greater awareness, and less disconnectedness.

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