Photographer's Note

The last five photographs I submitted to Trekearth were from the Polynesian Islands — Moorea, Tahiti, Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa... The great French Post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) lived out his final days in this area, and was buried in Hiva Oa. In the future I will return to the theme, "Paradise on Earth," with more images from those islands.

The scene in the present photo is a room in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, where Paul Gauguin in one of his self-portraits appears to be gazing at a bronze ballerina created by the Impressionist Edgar Degas (1834-1917). Painter, sculptor, lithographer, Degas was one of the founders of Impressionism, although he personally rejected the term "Impressionism," preferring instead to call the movement "Realism."

In a letter to his friend, Post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh, Gauguin wrote, "Art does not have to mimic reality!" His self-portrait certainly reflects that statement. But he was fond of young girls, and in sneaking a view of Degas's young ballerina, is exercising that proclivity. As Chris Jules points out, there is also the mischievous irony of the halo that Gauguin has painted over his head.

I am "hanging" this photo in the group theme, Pictures at an Exhibition. If anyone else has good candidates for that growing collection, please feel free to participate. You can also click on Mussorgsky/Ravel's "Pictures at an Exhibition to hear a terrific rendition of the music by the same name.


In composing a painting, photograph or magazine page, a general rule exists suggesting that the subject(s) look inward, toward the center rather than outward. Here they are both pointed outwards. In this instance, several other visitors were standing in that crucial vantage point, and even isolating Gauguin and Degas was a minor victory. In order to illustrate this principal, in the accompanying workshop I moved the ballerina to the right using Photoshop. But rules are made to be broken, and having the subjects look outward creates more tension than if they were looking inwards. This is unsettling to the eye, a factor that I prefer. Tension and unsettling factors are good for art. They make the Mona Lisa more effective, so enigmatic. Several viewers have expressed their preference one way or another. I would be grateful to hear your preference about the positions of the two works.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6809 W: 476 N: 12169] (41257)
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