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In Search of Gauguin

Our Editorial Director, Julia Hecomovich, travels the globe in search of the perfect art, quotes, and images for Galison products.  Her latest adventure brought her all the way to Mother Russia.  



    Early winter is not the cheeriest time of year to visit St. Petersburg, Russia’s Venice of the North. The city endures the flip side of June's glorious White Nights in what might be termed the Dark Days. It is endlessly overcast, grey, dismal, and drizzly. Fortunately, there are options for escape. After sipping hot cider with an acquaintance in the cozy Idiot café--named after Dostoevsky's brilliant novel and located only a few steps from the magnificent mansion where Rasputin was murdered--it seemed as dreary a time as any to take refuge in the Winter Palace.

    Even if there was no artwork here to admire, this complex, officially known as the State Hermitage Museum, would be worth visiting because of its architectural splendor. This is where the autocratic Tsars resided and presided over lavish banquets, opulent balls, and affairs of state. But fortunately, they also collected art and their collection is among one of the most impressive in the world.  Invaluable da Vincis, intimate Raphaels, numerous Titians, and scads of Rembrandts are hung in rooms of palatial splendor. One could easily spend hours discovering treasures at every turn, but I was on a specific quest: to find the Gauguin painting that we are using in an upcoming Galison portfolio notecard set.

    The Hermitage has one of the best Impressionist collections outside of France, and it took a while to wrench myself away from the exhilarating Monets and the breathtaking Van Goghs, but finally I entered the room with fourteen Gauguins, all radiating the stunning colors of his Tahitian dream. Outside it was cold and inhospitable. In this room, Gauguin's island mirage, captured in maroon, jade, azure, and ocher, exuded an atmosphere of warm languor.  And--there she was, our Woman with a Mango, holding out her hand with the fruit as if making an offering. Dark Days are a small price to pay for the chance to bask in this brilliance.

Make sure you check back to see this classic image on one of our Galison portfolio notecards!

Julia also compiled a series of Gauguin quotes – which one is your favorite?


"Art is either plagiarism or revolution."

"I shut my eyes in order to see."

"It is the eye of ignorance that assigns a fixed and unchangeable color to every object; beware of this stumbling block."

"In art, all who have done something other than their predecessors have merited the epithet of revolutionary; and it is they alone who are masters."



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