This book is the catalogue for the current Tate Modern exhibition that will later go to Washington D.C. In spite of the fact that there has recently been a spate of exhibition (in the U.S., France and even Italy) trying to debunk the myth surrounding the artist (a myth partly originated from his own self-promotional skills), the text is very interesting in that it succeeds in deciphering Gauguin's views of the world he lived in, the effect those views had on his art, his attitude towards other cultures, towards the otherness, whether religious or racial.
There are several essays, tackling such themes as Martinique, the "Primitive", the Exoticism (through Gauguin's missed meeting with French writer and early advocate of cultural diversity Victor Segalen who visited Polynesia in 1903, three months after the painter's death). There is also an interesting article by French critic Philippe Dagen on Gauguin's relationship with politics and the way his political ideas transpire in his art, which, to my knowledge, is the first text that has been written on the subject.
Now the only qualification I would make would be on the quality of the numerous colour illustrations which are sometimes too small or sometimes too dull (not always, though: about a third of the reproductions are of a good quality, strangely enough). Therefore, 4 stars instead of 5...
The is a good quick overview of Guaguin's works. It provides an excellent itroduction to them and at the same gives the reader an understanding of the selected paintings. As the title indicates it is a basic art album. Thus I recommend it to anyone who wants to gain an understading of Gauguin's art before he or she wants to study in detail any of his works. The only drawback is that, by its very nature it is a reductive view with a limited selection of his works.
I bought this book for my father, who has a large collection of Art books. He recently went to see the Gaugin exhibition so I knew he would appreciate owning the book. The quality is outstanding, especially the images which really do the original paintings great justice. I am so impressed with his purchase.