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“Bonjour Monsieur Gauguin” on view until June 3 as part of the exhibition “Wanderlust” at Alte Nationalgalerie

31.05.2018
Alte Nationalgalerie

Paul Gauguin’s “Bonjour Monsieur Gauguin”, a response to “The Encounter or Bonjour Monsieur Courbet” by Gustave Courbet, will only be on view as part of the exhibition “Wanderlust. From Caspar David Friedrich to Auguste Renoir” until Sunday 3 June 2018. Thus there are only a few days left to experience the coming together of these two interrelated paintings. “The Encounter or Bonjour Monsieur Courbet” can be viewed until the end of the exhibition on 16 September.

About the works

Gustave Courbet, the perhaps most famous exponent of Realism in French painting, created a number of sensational paintings. Standing out among them is the work “The Meeting or Bonjour Monsieur Courbet” of 1854, in which Courbet shows himself out wandering, whereby he encounters his patron Alfred Bruyas and his servant. Bruyas supported Courbet and purchased the large-format painting. When it was exhibited at the Paris World Exhibition of 1855, the audacity of the painter, who presented himself with abundant self-confidence and in a much more favourable light than his patron, was not lost on spectators. One critic wrote: “Neither the gentleman nor his servant cast shadows, something that Monsieur Courbet has reserved for himself: He alone is capable of blocking the sun’s rays.” When, in 1868, Bruyas donated his collection of contemporary artworks to his hometown of Montpellier, he saw to it that “The Meeting” would be hung in the best place in the town’s museum, allowing him to demonstrate for posterity his role as a supporter of progressive art.

Twenty years later, in 1888, Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh travelled from Provence to Montpellier and visited Alfred Bruyas’s famous collection at the Musée Fabre. “The Meeting or Bonjour Monsieur Courbet” made a profound impression on Gauguin. He formulated his first response, modest decorative work at an inn, and then developed an oil painting from it in 1889, titled “Bonjour Monsieur Gauguin” after Courbet’s work. At the time Gauguin was experiencing financial difficulties, as the public was slow to appreciate his intense colours. Instead of emphasizing his autonomy from society as Courbet had, he showed himself as a misfit. His cap pulled down into his face, he approaches not a millionaire but a Breton farmer’s wife who appears to be running away from him. Hoping to find better working conditions away from European society, which did not particularly value his work, Gauguin travelled to the Polynesian islands in 1891. “Bonjour Monsieur Gauguin” later made its way into the National Gallery of Prague.

The exhibition is made possible by the Freunde der Nationalgalerie and supported by Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft.