By David Robson 23 April If you ever doubt the idea that the very clever can also be very silly, just remember the time the smartest man in America tried to electrocute a turkey. Soon it became a regular party trick, as he wowed guests with his magical ability to command this strange force. During one of these demonstrations, however, Franklin became distracted, and made an elementary mistake — he touched one of the live jars while holding a metal chain in the other hand. The American surgeon Atul Gawande has written powerfully about a great tragedy in modern medicine.
Its picturesque passengers, divided into three classes under the deck, covered from rich, important functionaries and landowners; to young people of humble origins who traveled to the colonies searching a future that the old France was not able to assure.
In other words, the transoceanic ship was sort of a human zoo, a circus with so many actors that nobody noticed the presence of a middle age man with a powerful moustache, who spent the endless hours sitting on the deck, gazing into the horizon.
Nevertheless, that anonymous personage who occupied one of the humble third-class cabins was not an ordinary passenger.
He was an admired painter called Paul Gauguin, who travelled to Tahiti searching an artistic redemption, a comeback to the primitive and the exotic that could help him to find a way in which his Art could be purified. In his own words, "Occident is rotten.
And coming back one or two years after, solid" Nevertheless, Gauguin's trip was not exactly a "poor man's odyssey".
In fact, he asked the French ambassador to personally welcome him at Papeete 's harbour, as an official guest of the French Government. In addition, Papeete -the Tahitian capital- was not the tropical paradise that it could have been in former times, the exotic and mysterious town found by great travellers like the legendary Captain Cook.
No, Gauguin soon realized that such paradise had been killed after many years of civilian, military and religious colonization.
However, there still Essay on stupid laws, in those towns far enough from the capital, an important part of the autochthon and primitive culture Gauguin was searching.
In the last decades, some art critics and historians -much more documented, perspicacious, and of course malicious than in the past- have claimed to have identified in Gauguin's paternalistic attitude during his first years in Tahiti when he described Polynesians as "meek" and even "fool" some intentions that could be comparable to those of the first colonizers, who aggressively tried to impose to the natives the laws and faith of the Old Continent.
The Madonna, the child, and even the two women in adoration and the golden-winged angel in the background, are clearly Polynesian natives.
Here Gauguin introduced the Catholic Faith in the local culture, making the natives the protagonists of the religious scenes. Nevertheless, this painting, whose composition is very different from those of the European tradition, to the point of that we can not determine with certain if it is an "Annunciation" or an "Adoration", is followed by many works in which the ancestral beliefs of the natives are the protagonists, as in "Manao tupapau" "The spirit of the dead watches you" Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Galleryconsidered by Gauguin himself as one of the masterworks of his first Tahitian period.
The artist talked about the painting in these words: I have represented the apparition as a simple little woman because the girl These ancestral beliefs achieved a predominant position not only in his artistic oeuvre, but also in his personality.
In fact, at the end of the 19th century, almost all the ancient Polynesian wood sculptures had been destroyed by the devastating Christian missions. Gauguin embarked on an epic work: Unfortunately, almost all of the sculptures Gauguin created in Tahiti were carved in low-quality wood, which caused its premature destruction.
Nevertheless, the Orsay Museum in Paris conserves two little statuettes of this creative period: The date of both sculptures, although inexact, can be situated around In both figures Gauguin has represented the Polynesian god Taaroa, whose shell contains -according to the Polynesian tradition- the entire universe.
But it was inback in Paris we will talk about this comeback in the next chapter when Gauguin created his undisclosed masterpiece in sculpture: The figure, which Gauguin called La Tueuse The killer is a disturbing female figure of primitive and crude gestures, long hair and huge eyes, which stands over the terrific figure of a dead wolf.
But this iconographic recuperation that Gauguin made is not only visible in the three-dimensional works: Desperate, he wrote to the French Ministry begging him for a repatriation that took place at the end of the following year.
Back at home, and after being hospitalized in Paris in much better sanitary conditions than in the Polynesian islands, and after receiving the inheritance of his uncle Isidorehis physical and economical situation improved. He rented an apartment in Paris and lived there with Annah the Javanese.
In addition, Gauguin exhibited fifty of his works in an important exhibition of modern Art in Copenhagen.
In other words, nobody could suppose that Gauguin's adventure in the Polynesia could be repeated. He returned two years later, after discovering that he had contracted syphilis. He returned after a brawl in which his ankle was broken. He returned after painting in Paris a praise, a fantasy of the Tahitian culture, the masterwork entitled "Mahana no Atua The day of the gods" Chicago, Art Institutein which the goddess Hina is adored by a group of women who dance surrounded by multicolour waters.
In short, he returned after realizing that his place was no more among the European people. Oh yes, here I am a criminal, but Michelangelo was also a criminal. In his progressive separation from any vestige of the European society, he left Papeete and moved to a sack in the middle of the countryside, perhaps searching that fabulous valley he had depicted in the "Matamua".
Free of these social conventions, Gauguin created a new Artistic Eve using Tahitian women as his model. The artist had never hidden his admiration for Tahitian young women, even for the too young ones his lover Pau'ura was only 14 years oldand, during his French intermission, he boasted in front of his friends about his conquests, saying that every night several Tahitian girls jumped into his bed "as possessed by evil spirits" an attitude that gave him a nice syphilis The female figure is the protagonist in such famous works as "Te arii Vahine The queen of the beauty"Moscow, Pushkin Museum"Girls with mango flowers or Two Tahitian "New York, Metropolitan Museum.
Another paradigmatical work of this period is the famous "Nevermore"Courtauld Institute Galleries, Londona work in which the female nude is still visible.THIS essay examines the idea of tolerance in our advanced industrial society.
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