130 years ago today, the French impressionist painter Paul Gauguin left France for Tahiti, where he would create his most luminous canvases. He wanted to escape “everything that is artificial and conventional” and set sail promising to return a rich man.
He eventually set up his studio in a native-style bamboo hut where he created paintings depicting Tahitian life, such as Ave Maria (above/cropped), which became his most prized Tahitian painting.
Many of his finest works date from this period. His first portrait of a Tahitian model was Woman with a Flower, which he sent to his patron George-Daniel de Monfreid, who would become his devoted champion and receive 8 more canvases by mail. By 1892, the painting, in all its sensual Polynesian splendor, was hanging in a Paris gallery.
He executed some twenty paintings and a dozen woodcarvings over the next year. After returning to France with 70 other pieces in 1893, he wrote a travelogue—Noa Noa—and, though not at all wealthy, his art is today displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, Van Gogh Museum, Musée d’Orsay, and the MoMA. (1891)
MORE Good News on this Date:
- The U.S. House of Representatives first met in New York City with the 435 members holding its first quorum, electing Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania as its first Speaker (1789)
- A London-Paris telephone connection was opened (1891)
- President Nixon signed a law that required the Surgeon General’s warnings to be placed in view on all tobacco products, and banned cigarette advertising on TV and radio (1970)
- The world’s seven wealthiest nations, the G7, agreed to give $24 billion in aid to the states formerly known as the USSR (1992)
- Same-sex marriage became legal in the Netherlands (2001)
- The Netherlands legalized euthanasia, becoming the first nation in the world to do so (2002)
- Google launched its Gmail service to the public and within 12 years the free email service had one billion active users worldwide (2004)
And, 45 years ago today, the Apple Computer company was founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne to sell their ground-breaking Apple I personal computer kits. Their startup is now the most valuable company in the world. (1976)
And 81 years ago today, Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmental activist and scientist who started the Green Belt Movement, was born. Focused on planting trees, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace”. Started in 1977 and run mostly by women, Maathai’s movement has planted over 51 million trees and trained 30,000 women in forestry, agriculture, and bee-keeping, helping them earn a living while preserving land. She was also a member of Kenya’s Parliament and the first Eastern African woman to receive a Ph.D. (1940–2011)
48 years ago today, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held a press conference to announce the formation of a new country called Nutopia. Not for April Fools day but ahead of the release of the Mind Games LP that included a written description of the “country” and its laws and a track called Nutopian International Anthem, which contained only silence. “Nutopia has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people; Nutopia has no laws other than cosmic; all people of Nutopia are ambassadors of the country.” (1973)
Happy 72nd Birthday to the Jamaican ska and reggae musician, singer, and actor, Jimmy Cliff. After scoring his first hit at age 14, he went on to record such uplifting songs as “Wonderful World, Beautiful People”, “Many Rivers to Cross”, “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, “Reggae Night”, and covers of Cat Stevens’s “Wild World” and Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” from the film Cool Runnings (the Raggae Movie). He starred in the film—and recorded the title track for—The Harder They Come, which popularized reggae music across the world. And, in 2010, Jimmy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. WATCH an inspiring song… (1948)
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