We recently heard news of a new feature length film production that is currently in the developmental phase – the film’s subject? None other than French post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin. As charismatic as he was unreasonable, and as talented as he was temperamental, the role of Gauguin is one that we can imagine many actors falling over themselves to attain. Well, we thought we’d have a dig around for previous portrayals of Gauguin on the big screen, and see how those actors fared.

The earliest portrayal of Gauguin in cinema was in the Vincent Van Gogh biographical film Lust For Life from 1956. Gauguin was brought to life on screen by an eccentric Anthony Quinn, who claimed to have heard the voice of Gauguin’s spirit throughout the filming process. Whatever the voice was telling him, it clearly worked and that year he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal. In 1980 it was David Carradine who played Gauguin in the TV movie Gauguin The Savage. The film went on to win a Primetime Emmy and Carradine’s performance in it received favourable reviews, although some have mentioned that successfully playing someone who was a drunkard and a womaniser may not have been too great a challenge for him.

In 1989 Danish filmmaker Henning Carlsen delivered Oviri: Wolf At The Door, trying to create a more well-balanced and rounded portrayal of the notorious Frenchman. Donald Sutherland took on the role of Gauguin, and the film changed tack from previous offerings, focusing on Gauguin’s unsuccessful return from Tahiti to France in 1893 and 1895. Expecting to arrive back to critical acclaim but instead being greeted by a hostile French public and a mixed critical response to his work, Sutherland conveyed Gauguin’s mixture of self-confidence and confusion with aplomb.

We don’t know if nepotism was at work among Gauguin’s fans in the film industry, but in 2003 it was Donald’s son Keifer who embodied Gauguin in Australian director Mario Andreacchio’s 2003 biographical film Paradise Found. The film charted the artist’s life from 1880 until 1897, covering his move from stockbroker to artist, his relationship with Camille Pissarro, the breakdown in his relationship with his family, and his escape to Tahiti. In spite of favourable reviews, the film only received a limited release.

So with a history of Oscars, Emmys, critical acclaim and financial failure, what’s new about the latest Gauguin film? The project, titled Gauguin’s Lover, is by British filmmaker Devika Ponnambalam and according to promotional details is apparently “inspired by the 1892 Gauguin oil painting Spirit Of The Dead Watching, and the little known fact that Gauguin gave his lover syphilis.”

The film’s subject, Gauguin’s relationship with his 13 year old Tahitian wife Tehura, hints that it may be a little darker than previous outings - most films inspired by syphilis tend to be. The short film that was produced to promote the project focuses on the psychological effects that Gauguin’s return to France had on Tehura, so the over the top performance that won Anthony Quinn his Oscar in 1956 probably wouldn’t fit in too well. We’ll keep you updated.