This is Gauguin – Book Review

Written by George Roddam, Illustrated by Slawa Harasymowicz

Published by Laurence King ISBN 978 1 7806 7189 5

Review by Maia Fjord

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This is Gauguin is an instalment in a new art series by Laurence King that rethinks art history and presents it in a highly visual and engaging way. In the book the story of Gauguin’s life and work is brought to life through Slawa Harasymowicz’s illustrations.

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The first thing that came to mind upon receiving this book is how visually appealing it is. The spine is a bold orange that instantly reminded me of Gauguin’s use of overly bright colours, and the binding is unusual with the edges of the cover being cropped off at the same level as the pages, revealing the grey board inside. It even feels nice to hold.

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The book is easy to read, informative and very interesting. The illustration throughout makes this work of non-fiction feel almost like a storybook, and the fact that it’s not too text heavy makes it very accessible to anyone and everyone, even those who have never looked into art history before.

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By featuring key pieces of Gauguin’s work from throughout his artistic career, This is Gauguin has a chance to analyse them and discuss their themes and inspirations. For someone such as myself, who previously didn’t know too much about Gauguin, this is fascinating and very insightful. Slawa Harasymowicz’s textural and deeply tonal pencil drawings provide a nice contrast to Gauguin’s highly saturated paintings that’s visually pleasing.

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Having read this book, I do feel like I’ve learnt a lot about the life of the artist. My lasting impression of Gauguin is that although he was unmistakably a very talented and highly influential artist, he was not a very nice man, choosing to leave his wife and children in Europe to pursue a much exaggerated and somewhat naive idea of “the noble savages” of the tropics. His search eventually lead him to the Polynesian Islands where he took a 13-14 year old girl as his lover when she was offered to him by her family. But, more of that if you read the book!

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Overall, I’d say this book is a great read for anyone who might be interested in art history and the life and work of Gauguin, but I would recommend it the most to those who may be new to these subjects, as it offers an easy to read and stimulating introduction to the topics.

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14th October 2014
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