Gauguin, Modern Art, and its Ancient Sources

Gauguin, Modern Art, and its Ancient Sources

Dr. Diana McDonald, Ph.D.
January 13, 2019

Much of modern art is viewed in the present, in a sort of vacuum. But where did it really come from? Why were artists in the late 19th century and the early 20th century looking at, and borrowing from, what they deemed “Primitive Art”?  What are the traditions that lay behind much of modern European and American art: Abstraction, Cubism, Color Field painting, Earth Art, and more?

Dr. McDonald will explore the ancient art that reverberated through the ages, down to us, with an emphasis on Pre-Columbian art (also called Ancient American or Pre-Hispanic Art) that inspired artists, especially Gauguin, Henry Moore, Paul Klee and others. Architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright also took special interest in the structures and decorative forms of the ancient Maya. Abstract art and Earth Art are not new – traditions that did not represent recognizable natural images, and especially humans, were at the forefront in Pre-Columbian art, especially in the Andes. This art was based on the natural world, however, and these themes reach across the ages to unify our human concerns, whether you are looking at Inca art, Aztec sculpture, or European and American modernist painting.

Dr. Diana McDonald is an art historian and lecturer, retired from Boston College. She earned her B.A. in Fine Arts from Harvard University and Ph.D. from Columbia University, where she concentrated in ancient Near Eastern and Pre-Columbian art. She worked at The Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Indonesian National Museum in Jakarta, and other preeminent organizations.

Supported by Urban Enhancement Trust Fund, Haverland Carter Lifestyle Group and Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union