Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rumbling and rambling

The earthquake chaos continues in Kaikoura and Wellington: now upgraded to 7.8, and followed by more than 1500 aftershocks, it's caused massive damage to roads and buildings, the land and the coast, and it's all a bit exhausting to think about, with our long experience of Christchurch's travails still so fresh in our memories.

So here's a less weighty connection: tucked behind all the dramatic stuff in the paper today is a report about the auction of a notebook of sketches found in Arles that it's claimed belonged to Van Gogh. Now, I've been to Arles, and on my tour there visiting the sites of some of his most famous paintings - which still today look just as they do on the canvas - the guide mentioned that Gauguin, who stayed with Vincent for 9 weeks in the city, tried to help with Van Gogh's mental instability. Not a great success, if true - he ended up being threatened with the knife that Vincent famously used soon afterwards to cut off part of his ear (which he didn't actually give to a prostitute). 
Then, while in Tahiti recently I learned that, like so many (male) producers of the world's most valued pieces of art and literature, Gauguin was also not someone you'd want to share even a lift with. Nasty piece of work, actually, violent and - our circle-island tour guide of Tahiti Nui, Dave, was perfectly candid about this - a paedophile, who not only took advantage of young girls wherever he went, but generously shared his syphilis with them. Those paintings of tropical maidens that we're so familiar with look innocent enough, but the reality was far from that. There is a Gauguin Museum on the route, but it's undergoing renovations right now, so instead we spent time in the nearby Vaipahi Gardens. Much more soothing to the spirit.

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