Two decades old this week, the Thyssen Museum in Madrid is celebrating its anniversary with a blockbuster show of 111 works narrating the artistic adventures and influence of Paul Gauguin (1848-1903).
The French artist has already been the subject of countless exhibitions around the world -- the museum devoted a complete retrospective to him in 2005 -- but as with Picasso, there are always new avenues to explore.
The point of departure of Gauguin and the Voyage to the Exotic is his first trip to Tahiti in 1891, where, aged 43 and suffering from syphilis, he went in search of the calm he needed to reinvent himself as a person and an artist.
The opening rooms show Gauguin's paradisiacal landscapes from that first voyage alongside similar scenes painted by his contemporary Charles Laval. "They are works in which Gauguin tells us what he would have liked to have found: an idyllic life that he had seen as a jump back, before 'civilization' arrived and prohibited [the natives'] dances and music," explains curator Paloma Alarcó.
After that come the paintings from his second, and definitive, voyage, which seem to contain the same elements but alongside symbols of evil that the colonizers and the Church inflicted on the natives. The wild freedom with which Gauguin employed color had a profound influence on French Fauvism and German Expressionism, and this occupies the latter part of the show, which runs until January 13.