Vanishing Paradise: Art and Exoticism in Colonial Tahiti

Vanishing Paradise: Art and Exoticism in Colonial Tahiti

by Elizabeth C. Childs
     
 

In the late nineteenth century Tahiti embodied Western ideas of an earthly Paradise, a primitive utopia distant geographically and culturally from the Gilded Age or Belle Epoque. Stimulated by fin de siècle longings for the exotic, a few adventurous artists sought out this Eden on the South Seas—but what they found did not always live up to the Eden of

Overview

In the late nineteenth century Tahiti embodied Western ideas of an earthly Paradise, a primitive utopia distant geographically and culturally from the Gilded Age or Belle Epoque. Stimulated by fin de siècle longings for the exotic, a few adventurous artists sought out this Eden on the South Seas—but what they found did not always live up to the Eden of their imagination. Bringing three of these figures together in comparative perspective for the first time, Vanishing Paradise offers a fresh take on the modernist primitivism of the French painter Paul Gauguin, the nostalgic exoticism of the American John LaFarge, and the elite tourism of the American writer Henry Adams. Drawing on archives throughout Europe, America, and the South Pacific, Childs explores how these artists, lured by romantic ideas about travel and exploration, wrestled with the elusiveness of paradise and portrayed colonial Tahiti in ways both mythic and modern.

Editorial Reviews

PopMatters.com - Farisa Khalid
"I can’t recall when I’ve been so enthralled by a book about 19th century art. Elizabeth Childs’ Vanishing Paradise is an exhaustive, beautifully written account of colonialism in Tahiti and its enduring influence on art in the West."
CHOICE - James E. Housefield
"A much-needed, deeply humane view of artists and Tahiti that is truly elegant and refreshingly complex. . . . Childs's scholarship is consistently captivating, and this work is as transporting as a book analyzing the power of Tahiti should be."
Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies - Susan Wilson
"Childs is unafraid to examine American and European attitudes to Tahitian culture. She is curious and intellectually resolute, honest in her careful delving into Tahiti’s history and culture . . . an impressive examination of a very difficult and complex subject."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520271739
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
05/18/2013
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
7.30(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth C. Childs is Etta and Mark Steinberg Professor of Art History and Chair of the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Washington University.

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