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30 Aug, 2010

The clog blog

Posted by: admin In: Tate

When was the last time clogs were fashionable? I have a vague memory of my mum wearing some slim-line versions in the 1970s. And who hasn’t been given some as a souvenir from a Dutch holiday?

Personally, I think they’re a form of torture, but Gauguin seemed to like wearing them. On a recent trip to Brittany, in the foot-steps of the great man himself, we went to a reconstruction of Marie Henry’s guest house in Le Pouldu, where Gauguin stayed in the winter of 1889.

Artistic footwear: a pair of wooden clogs, carved and worn by Paul Gauguin (courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington)

Artistic footwear: a pair of wooden clogs, carved and worn by Paul Gauguin (courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington)

As we wandered about the house, I spied a pair of dusty clogs by the front door and, yes, put my feet into them. Cheeky, I know (btw, they were modern, and I did ask the nice lady taking us round), but I was curious to know what these large, clunky objects would feel like.

Soaking up the culture: Paul Gauguin’s Breton Girls Dancing, Pont-Aven, 1888 (courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington)

Soaking up the culture: Paul Gauguin’s Breton Girls Dancing, Pont-Aven, 1888 (courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington)

For Gauguin, clogs were emblematic of Brittany’s ancient culture. “I love Brittany,” he once wrote to a friend, “I find there the savage, the primitive. When my clogs resound on the granite soil, I hear the muffled, dull powerful tone that I’m after in painting…”

So clogs may not grace the wardrobe of any self-respecting WAG (or do they?), but they sure do things for artistic inspiration!

We have a pair of clogs in our exhibition, beautifully carved by Gauguin himself. Which brings me rather neatly to his famous clog fight in Concarneau… but more of that later…

Gauguin: Maker of Myth opens at Tate Modern on 30 September. Book tickets online or become a Tate Member or Tate Patron and visit for free.

Read the original post on The Great Tate Mod Blog

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