The Story Behind The Most Expensive Painting Ever - Paul Gauguin's 'When Will You Marry?'

by Aileen Mitchell 31. March 2015 16:43

Photo from: Wikipedia Commons

Everything has a price, especially seminal paintings it seems. Connected to this thought is the news that Paul Gauguin’s ‘When Will You Marry?’ recently became the world’s most expensive painting, after it sold for $300m (£197m). But what’s the story behind this record-breaking artwork? Read on to find out.  

A Brief History of Paul Gauguin

Born in Paris in 1848, Paul Gauguin’s life and career was defined by the burning desire to keep broadening his horizons. His early paintings were shaped by the influence of Impressionism, which was France’s dominating art movement during the 1870s and 1880s. However, it wasn’t long before Gauguin began to carve out his own niche in the art world. 

After being instrumental in pioneering the movement now widely recognised as Symbolism, Gauguin began to travel around the South Pacific in search of inspiration. It was during this period in his life that he began to develop a painting style that blended natural observation with mystical symbolism.  

This new style became known as Primitivism, because it rejected established European values while being heavily influenced by the ‘primitive’ arts of Africa, Asia and French Polynesia. And it was during a trip to Tahiti in search of art unspoiled by western culture that Gauguin applied ‘When Will You Marry?’ to canvas. 

Above: The gorgeous Tahiti landscape that inspired some of Gauguin’s finest paintings. Photo from: Paul Gauguin Cruises

Leaving his wife and family behind, Gauguin travelled to Tahiti for the first time in 1891. His goal was to discover a paradise that would allow him to create pure, primitive art, which he deemed impossible to produce in France.

Yet when Gauguin arrived in Tahiti, he discovered the country wasn’t as primitive as he had imagined. This was largely down to the fact that Tahiti was colonised in the late 18th century, and at least two-thirds of the indigenous people had been killed by diseases bought over by Europeans. Nonetheless, Gauguin settled into Tahitian life, and even made a young local girl called Teha’amana his native wife.

Paul Gauguin's 'When Will You Marry?'

There are many art critics that believe Teha’amana was the model for the majority of paintings that Gauguin produced while in Tahiti. For this reason, it is possible to assume that one of the two women depicted in the ‘When Will You Marry?’  painting is the artist’s Tahitian wife. This statement seems even more likely once you consider that the two women who appear in the painting also appear in many of his other works from the period. 

During Gauguin’s journey into Primitivism, he treated a lot of his painting as a meditation on the meaning of big ideas like human existence and love. If you analyse ‘When Will You Marry?’ you can see that it is another of the artist’s paintings that explores the idea of love in a non-erotic context.

Take a look at the two women in the painting. One is wearing a white flower that symbolises purity and the desire to find a husband, and the other is an older lady making a gesture that in Buddhist art means warning. For this reason it is possible to consider the painting’s theme as one of a relationship between innocence and knowledge. Or, in other words, the older woman reflects experience of love, while the younger woman is still unaware of the complexity of emotions that come with such feelings.

Every Painting Has a Price

Above: Paul Cezanne’s The Card Players. Photo from: Joaquín Martínez

After returning to France from Tahiti, Gauguin included ‘When Will You Marry?’ at an exhibition he held at the Durand-Ruel's gallery, selling it for a price of 1,500 francs. This was a huge amount of money for the time and more than any other painting included in the exhibition, which was a reflection of how much Gauguin treasured the work.  

For many decades before its most recent sale, the painting belonged to Rudolf Staechelin, an art collector from Basel. Staechelin had lent the painting to Kunstmuseum in Basel, but, according to reports in the US media, he decided to sell the painting because of a disagreement with the museum. 

Although Rudolf Staechelin declined to comment upon who had bought the painting, it is widely believed it was purchased by a Qatari collector. If this is the case, it will follow a recent trend that has seen the oil-rich United Arab Emirates buy up a large number of the world’s most valuable paintings – including ‘The Card Players’ by Paul Cézanne, which previously held the world-record for the most expensive painting when it sold for $250 million in 2011.

Do you fancy owning an original piece of art with its own unique story? Simply visit The Gallery, and then use the search tool on the right to find a print that matches your taste and budget.


Art History | Artists

Art News: 10 Ways Technology Is Redefining Art Techniques

by Administrator 31. March 2015 15:33

Image by Scott Lynch

Did you know that the word ‘technology’ derives from the ancient Greek word for the systematic treatment of art (technē) and logic (logia)? Today, you could argue that the synthesis between art and technology is stronger than it has ever been. To prove this, here are 10 amazing ways technology is driving the evolution of art techniques. 

1. A robot that draws abstract artwork

Designed by artists Julian Adenauer and Michael Haas, the Vertwalker is a lightweight robot that can walk up and down vertical walls while using an eight colour paint pen. To date, the Vertwalker’s greatest creation was an exhibition displayed at the Saatchi Gallery called ‘Emerging Colourspace’.  Because the Vertwalker constantly overwrites its own work, any painting the robot produces is in a constant state of flux – well, that is until the batteries run out.

2. The 3D pen that lets you draw in the air

Above: The world’s smallest 3D printing pen, which started life as a Kickstarter concept. Photo from: designmilk

The pen, manufactured by LIX and available for pre-order soon, allows you to draw objects in the air by using technology similar to a 3D printer. The LIX pen uses a USB 3.0 port for its power supply, which melts and cools coloured plastic from its hot-end nozzle. After turning the LIX pen on, it takes about one minute to warm up before you can begin creating 3D illustrations in any and all shapes imaginable.

3. A device that turns pollution into art

A media artist in Moscow called Dmitry Morozov has created a device that locates air pollution before turning it into glitch art. The device creates art by translating air data into volts, which are then turned into colours and shapes algorithmically. Originally, Morozov built the device as a way of protesting against the extreme level of air pollution in Moscow. Ironically though, Morozov’s device creates more beautiful pictures when there is more pollution in the air.

4. Stained glass windows made from laser cut paper

Above: Either/Or Decreed by Eric Standley, a stained glass window made from laser cut paper. Photo from: Jon Fife

Eric Standley, an artist based in Virginia, is crafting ‘cutting edge’ art by using lasers to carve incredibly ornate stained glass windows from paper. Standley’s designs often take many months to plan and over 100 sheets of paper stacked on top of one another to create. The artist says he is inspired by the geometry found in Gothic and Islamic architecture, which is clearly evident in the design featured above.  

5. Mobile technology is allowing us to become the art

There is no question that mobile technology has changed the way people experience art. By making art available via mobile devices, everyone has the potential to access art on demand. However, the addition of wearable tech such as Google Glass and Occulus Rift are pushing these boundaries still further. For example, the Belgian art collective Skullmapping is using Oculus Rift technology to produce more immersive pieces that allow audiences to exist within their artworks. 

6. Asphyxia: A blend of dance and motion capture technology

Created by Maria Takeuchi and Frederico Phillips, Asphyxia is a film project that explores human movement via motion capture technology. The pair used Xbox One Kinect sensors to capture the dance moves of Shiho Tanaka, before using that data to render some truly spectacular images of their subject in full flow. To see images and videos of the project, click here.

7. The street artist taking 'GIF-iti' to another level

Above: An aerosol mural by the London street artist, INSA. Photo from: Retinafunk

For those of you who are not familiar with the work of street artist INSA, now is the time to correct that injustice. INSA creates animations of his street art by painting on walls, photographing the results, re-painting the walls, re-photographing the results and then converting the pictures into amazing GIFS.

However, now INSA has taken his ‘GIF-iti’ to another level by creating the world’s largest GIF. Painted on the ground in Rio de Janeiro over four days, the GIF was created using the same technique outlined above, but the photos were taken from a satellite 431 miles above the earth.

8. Adobe Ink and Slide could help make drawing easy for everyone

Last year, Adobe launched the Ink and Slide – a stylus and ruler that integrates with a pair of iPad apps that help users draw masterpieces with comparative ease. Of course, Adobe has made software such as Photoshop that has been invaluable to professionals for years. However, with the Ink and Slide, Adobe could provide amateur digital artists with the tools to fast-track their budding talents. 

9. 3D printing is expanding the possibilities of sculpture

For sculptors who are used to working with less malleable materials, 3D printing is expanding the possibilities of their craft. This is because 3D printing allows sculptors to work with a complex level of nuance, quicker and easier than they can when using conventional methods. These six sculptures produced using 3D printing illustrate the potential of this relatively new technology for producing spectacular art work. 

10. Interactive art that defies the laws of physics

Above: The Rain Room, an art installation that made the impossible, possible – with the help of technology. Photo from: DJ Ecal

The London-based art studio Random International recently wowed visitors at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) with their interactive installation, Rain Room. With the help of technology, visitors could walk through a room of pouring rain without being hit by one single raindrop. The installation worked by using a 3D camera and sensors that stopped and restarted the rain around each visitor as they moved through the installation.

Want to own a painting that blends art with technology? Simply visit The Gallery, and then use the search tool on the right to find a variety of artists that are using modern methods to produce striking prints. 


The Art World

Malvern Theatres - April - May Exhibition

by Humph Hack 29. March 2015 16:02

3 Artists - Back by Popular Demand

One of the delights in curating the regularly changing Art Exhibitions at Malvern Theatres is the vast range of artists from which to choose; all from the online gallery, which promotes the work of over two thousand UK based artists. So, finding artists whose exciting work hasn't been seen in Malvern before, is one of the driving forces behind the venture. But once in a while, the public demands to see the work of artists who have shown successfully at the theatre before. The April – May show is a case in point.

Nick Andrew's work is unique in a number of respects. Firstly, his evocative works are inspired by a very small patch of rural Wiltshire. Secondly, the freshness and beauty of his images superbly convey the quietness and calmness of the valley of the River Wylye. And finally, his reputation is proven by the fact that his work appears in many public, corporate and private collections. This is a wonderful opportunity to see Nick's most recent works.

Shirley Netherton's landscape paintings are equally fresh. Her inspiration for paintings comes from the photographs she takes, while enjoying her hobbies of walking and kayaking. Living in the wonderful County of Cornwall, she is surrounded by the sea, and with so many beautiful rivers and landscapes to take inspiration from. Her works are full of wonderful light. It is the reassuring feeling of permanence that attracts buyers. The sun is shining and all's well with the World.