Review – Gauguin: The Other World (SelfMadeHero)

Publisher: SelfMadeHero
Writer/Artist: Fabrizio Dori
Release Date: 6th March 2017

The Latest book in SelfMadeHero’s “Art Masters” series, which also includes Dali, Munch, Pablo, Vincent and Rembrandt, Gauguin: The Other World takes an in-depth look at the astonishing life of outcast painter Paul Gauguin, whose radical work in the 1890s helped pave the way for an exciting new generation of post-impressonist artists.

If you aren’t much of an art aficionado, it’s entirely likely that won’t have even heard of Gauguin, and therein lies the true appeal of this book.  Fabrizio Dori pulls no punches as he paints his own portrait of the intensely flawed artist, whose primitivist style earned him no small amount scorn and derision during his lifetime, but who inadvertently opened the door for the likes of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

This book chronicles the last few years of Gauguin’s life, a period tinged with tragedy as his voracious appetites and growing frustrations steadily lead to his eventual demise, and Dori provides all manner of historical context to the artist’s endless struggle to have his voice heard.  The artistic snobbery and reluctance to accept change feels all too familiar even today, and the relentless passion of Gauguin would be all too easy to become enamoured with if the man himself didn’t come across as such a self-absorbed, womanising degenerate.

Gaugin’s wife on the other hand provides a much-needed sympathetic counterpoint to the story.  While he spends his final days loving, drinking and creating on the island of Tahiti, she toils away in Copenhagen, trying to sell his extravagantly priced paintings, with calamitous results.  It’s an intriguing juxtaposition that further highlights the deep-rooted flaws of the man, and once again Dori deserves all the credit in the world for providing such an unflinchingly honest account of the divisive artist.

Dori also lends a steady hand to the artwork, bringing Gauguin’s story to life with a significant nod to the artist’s own distinctive style.  It’s perhaps an unconventional approach for a graphic novel, but the authenticity of Dori’s work adds a sense of legitimacy to the proceedings, stopping short from feeling like out-and-out imitation as the artist provides his own unique take on the unmistakable style of Gauguin.

Steadfastly clinging to his personal mantra – “art is either revolution or plagiarism” – right until the bitter end, Gauguin’s fearlessly stubborn approach to his artwork, while turning him into something of a pariah during his lifetime, clearly ends up paying dividends for future generations of artists.  There’s definitely a moral here somewhere, but again, Gauguin’s abrasive demeanour makes it difficult to see anything he does as being ‘right’ or ‘worthy’.

As an intriguing biography of a man who played such a significant role in the evolution of the world of art, Gauguin: The Other World comes highly recommended.  The caveat of course being that without much knowledge of the story’s historical context in the world of art, readers may not necessarily get as much out of this graphic novel as those with a better understanding of its unlikeable protagonist and his battles with the sneering, disdainful art critic society.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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