Amsterdam's Van Gogh museum hosts Paul Gauguin exhibit

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A set of 11 lithographs made by Paul Gauguin for a show in Paris 121 years ago are the focus of an exhibit opening in Amsterdam this week on the French post-impressionist painter's career.

"The 1889 exhibition was a crucial one for Gauguin, in many ways it was a catalyst for his later body of work," Maartje de Haan, curator of the Van Gogh Museum, told AFP ahead of the opening on Friday.

The collection of prints, dubbed the Volpini suite, was put on display with the works of other artists like Charles Laval, Emile Bernard and Louis Anquetin at a certain Mr Volpini's Cafe des Arts in 1889.

The group had arranged their own exhibition as a counter to the established Paris World's Fair, to which they were not invited.

"They were considered too modern for the time," said de Haan.

The Volpini display was the first joint presentation by a group later to become known as the Pont-Aven School, which rejected impressionism and realism in favour of synthetism - a style characterised by a simplification of form and colour into flat, rhythmic patterns and undulating lines.

Gauguin's suite was put together for the exhibition in a bid to draw attention to his paintings in an early phase of his career, said de Haan.

"Unfortunately, it wasn't very successful and the group didn't raise much interest."

The 11 lithographs on canary-yellow paper offer an overview of the central themes in Gauguin's work, said a museum statement. These include often repeated images of female sea bathers and exotic island women.

"With the Volpini suite, Gauguin effectively presented his calling card as an artist."

The exhibition entitled "Paul Gauguin: the breakthrough into modernity", will run until June 6. It will also include about 50 other works by Gauguin and his friends closely linked to the Volpini suite, including Bernard, Japanese artist Kuniyoshi Utagawa, and Vincent van Gogh for whom the museum is named.

The exhibition was organised in collaboration with the Cleveland Museum of Art.