Despite the dramatic events of December 1888 that brought the Studio of the South to a premature end, the relationship between the two painters continued until van Goghs death, just 19 months later. In letters and occasional sketches, the artists continued to explore the same issues raised during their time together in Arles. In fact, one of van Goghs first projects following his breakdown was to complete a replica of Sunflowers, which had hung in Gauguins bedroom in Arles and had been so admired by him.
Gauguin, while exploring new directions in his art, continued to make reference to the debates and hard-earned lessons of the Studio of the South. Marrying his Caribbean imagery with van Goghs signature sunflower, he painted Caribbean Woman directly onto a cabinet door in the dining room of the inn where he was living in Brittany. In many ways, this composite image represents Gauguin's summation of the past and his hopes for the future: the regeneration of art represented by the sunflower could only occur, he concluded, in exotic, equatorial realms, or "the Studio of the Tropics." After van Gogh's suicide in July 1890, Gauguin focused all his efforts on realizing this studio, and departed for Tahiti, in the South Pacific, in April 1891.
Following van Goghs death, Gauguin lived another 13 years and was an uneasy witness and participant in the growing mythology surrounding his friend. Critics began to speak of van Gogh as a martyr to the artistic cause, one of the isolated geniuses who populated the artistic pantheon. Van Gogh began to receive the attention that Gauguin himself sought; critics even went so far as to describe him as a disciple of van Gogh. Ever ready to further his own career, Gauguin stepped up efforts to craft his own persona founded on the exotic and primitive, the very identity thhat van Gogh had been formative in shaping. His sojourn in the South Pacific, interrupted by a return to France in 1883, furthered this goal. There, he created many of his signature masterpieces. Even though Gauguin was thousands of miles and a dozen years removed from Arles, van Goghs influence remained, reappearing, for example, in a series of late canvases featuring van Goghs beloved sunflowers.
Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South has been organized by The Art Institute of Chicago and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South is part of the "Ameritech Exhibition Series" made possible through a grant from the Ameritech Foundation.
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