Noa… Noa: The story of an extraordinary book by Gauguin’s compulsion

There are many books issued by great artists who carry their ideas on pages of varying length, as well as drawings that they accomplish specifically for those books. We can almost say that there are one or more books in the repertoire of the largest number of artists, including theoretical or historical books that some of them published even free of drawings. On their confidence in the power of their expression in writing, as well as on their eagerness to marry theory and practice, making the text expressive of theory, leaving galleries and museums the task of expressing practice. Of course, we will not cite examples here, but the list contains titles that begin with the painter and historian of Renaissance art Giorgio Vasari and do not end with Paul Klee, Picasso and other great innovators of the twentieth century who wrote very important artistic studies without making them a justification for their artistic paths.

A great painter and writer by necessity

As for the French Paul Gauguin, he was a painter and seemed to insist throughout his life that he be a painter only. Since he took up the art of painting in earnest, he has remained careful not to practice others. Rather, he was even insisting on making the letters he sends to his friends, especially from those islands in the South Pacific, which he chose to live the most beautiful years of his life and send them the most beautiful And the strangest of his drawings, drawn letters, disapproving of being written. However, there is a book bearing Gauguin’s signature and containing his drawings, but it also contains many texts written by the painter. Or rather, the painter had to write it and publish it as it is, after it was supposed to be painted by his friend, the poet Charles Morris. The latter had already started writing, but he did not complete the road, which forced Gauguin to complete the project alone, and what made the book issued in a different way, literary at least, as the painter initially wanted. This book is entitled “Noa…Noa: A Journey to Tahiti”. As indicated by the last section of the title, the pages of the book include a literary text, in addition to many drawings made by Gauguin especially for him. And the book has a story that is okay to tell here, as long as, on its way, it reveals an aspect of Gauguin’s personality and a picture of his relationship with his friends.

The lazy poet disdains

It was 1893, when Gauguin had returned to Paris after his first voyage to the islands of Polynesia. In the French capital, he wanted to display the paintings he had achieved in those distant regions. But the paintings were strange in their subjects as well as in their shapes and even in their colors, so Gauguin feared that they would not be understood by the French, so he resolved to put a book in which he tells the details of his life in Tahiti, as a kind of presentation of the paintings, to decorate the book with drawings that in turn inspired his life there. Thus he outlined the book and the short literary text that would include it and wrote a first draft of the text in October of the year 1893. The “book” in its first handwriting consisted of twenty-five pages. After that, the artist contacted his friend, the poet Charles Morris, asking him to put the final form and the literary language of that text, telling him that their cooperation together, would make the book reciprocal between the voice of the “civilized” poet and the voice of the “savage” painter. Indeed, during the summer of 1893-1894, Gauguin received Morris’ text, and combined it with his drawings in a sumptuous bound album. The drawings were paintings that he made especially for the book, and together he gave them the title “Noa… Noa”, which in the Tahiti language means “perfume”. Thirty copies of the plates were printed. But what happened here is that Maurice was not able to complete the text required of him in its entirety, as he refrained from making the modifications desired by Gauguin. And when Gauguin was compelled to return to Tahiti, he took with him what he had accomplished and departed. As for some of the pages he had left for Morris’ texts to be published, he refilled them with additional fees. Later, when Gauguin learned, in his distant self-imposed exile, that Maurice had published a selection of his texts and drawings in the “White Review,” he became indignant with his friend, suspecting that the latter wanted to make a profit on the enterprise as a whole. Gauguin’s anger at Maurice will not subside until the end of his life, as he kept what he had accomplished from the project. After Gauguin’s death, the manuscript passed to his friend Daniel de Montfred, who gave it to the Louvre in 1927 after paraphrasing it, albeit without the original paintings and without Morris’ text.

The story is in more detail

Whatever it is, and despite its shortcomings, this small book remains a note on Gauguin’s creativity, applying in it and in his drawings what he himself had once advised a friend of his, and its content is that the most beautiful and most important thing that an artist can accomplish is experimentation and always daring experimentation that does not hesitate to take the risk that Others do not understand it “because in the end they will find it unavoidable to understand it”. The truth is that this book has come, at least in the form that Gauguin himself accomplished, “very daring in following the symbolic dream that Gauguin always wanted to delve into and express. And here he is doing here and he saw that the best thing to start with is to make drawings depicting his notes on his journey.” to Tahiti, confident that by giving the text the title “Noa Noa” he would have done justice to the scents of the flowers that pervade all over Tahiti. They are strong-smelling flowers that obviously combine strongly with Gauguin’s strong color. At first Gauguin wrote the text seeking to find a creative balance Between the poetic and realistic description of daily life, as well as between the love of nature that his infection reached from the path of the charming Taha Amana, which we always see in a large number of his paintings, but especially in the largest number of drawings he made for the book.When Gauguin returned to Paris, he tried to use the ingenuity of the pen of his friend the poet However, the result was disappointing for the painter, who was trying to highlight the visual character of the whole book through a language that he depicted visually, so he was surprised by Morris handing him a literary text that is almost structural, and in his opinion lacks honesty and fluidity. than Gauguin could have imagined.

read more

This section contains related articles, placed in the Related Nodes field.

Hello poor readers

Thus, on the eve of his travels again to Tahiti, and he seemed compelled to do so, Gauguin went to intensify the relationship of the book with the drawings, to which he would add copies that he did not want at first to be part of the project, and, through copies, exacerbated its color strength, and he decided to make the drawn aspect prevail on the written side. Specifically on that section that he wrote himself, talking about the details of his life there from memory, to return once he reached his exile and add new texts from his book, he no longer really cares about its literary strength or even its linguistic correctness. He saw his book complete without it, and so when he added it, he felt that his book had become, from a literary point of view, redundant. And this was what really pleased him and made him send the collection to his friend, the artist Louis Roy, asking him to turn this collection into an elegant book with exquisite paintings occupied with the highest levels of typographical elegance. Paul did the job in all honesty. Rather, he ensured that the book, despite its excessive elegance, would come at a low cost in response to what Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) had envisaged that his book would spread not only among the wealthy who would be able to purchase a copy if it was expensive, but especially among the ordinary people who were Gauguin wants to convey to them a love of art and a love of book and knows that they, in turn, will tolerate his simple writing and welcome his astonishing colors and shapes…