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Audio Stop 195

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A dark-haired, disembodied head of a haloed man with pale peach skin floats against a red and yellow background in this vertical portrait. The man’s hair seems to be flattened against his forehead, and extends beyond his head at the back in a way that suggests it may become a cap or hood. His face turns towards us as if over his right shoulder. He looks down to our left under arched eyebrows. He has a prominent hooked nose and a brushy mustache. Behind the head, the background is divided into a tomato red zone for the top half and a golden yellow field below, separated by a thin pine-green line. Two red and green apples hang from a branch near the upper right corner. The thin yellow halo floats over his head to the left of the branch. A pine-green, stylized vine-like form curves up from the bottom edge of the panel and ends with flat, sunshine yellow, square shapes, perhaps abstracted flowers or fruit. A hand near the lower right holds one end of the vine like a cigarette between fingertips. The vine seems to turn into a serpent’s head beyond the man’s fingers. Numbers and letters are painted in green in the lower left: “1889” and “P Go.”

Paul Gauguin

Self-Portrait, 1889

West Building, Main Floor - Gallery 83

This self-portrait, painted on a cupboard door from the dining room of an inn in the Breton hamlet Le Pouldu, France, is one of Paul Gauguin’s most important and radical paintings. His haloed head and disembodied right hand, a snake inserted between the fingers, float on amorphous zones of yellow and red. Elements of caricature add an ironic and aggressively ambivalent inflection. Gauguin’s friends called it an unkind character sketch.

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