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 Henri Matisse   Nymph and Satyr  1908 State Hermitage Museum
Henri Matisse
Nymph and Satyr
1908
State Hermitage Museum
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SOKARI DOUGLAS CAMP
TOUGH AS STEEL

by Donald Kuspit


When Gauguin celebrated so-called "primitive" sculpture as a welcome relief from "refined" Western art, he not only announced a new esthetic but a new ideology, both somewhat utopian and therapeutic. Its "savagery" and "barbarism" were an elixir of personal as well as artistic "rejuvenation" (his words). From the moment when Western society industrialized, sensitive, touchy types rebelled against it. Gauguin was one, underneath his tough-guy veneer, and so were the many artists who followed in his wake, sharing his belief in the "redemptive" power of the primitive, be it the "primitivism" of abstraction, expressionism, or surrealism, all of which depend on a "primitive" look ultimately inspired by the "primitive" unconscious.

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