Tahiti and the Society Islands: The Landscape and Way of Life that Inspired Generations of Artists with Nigel McGilchrist

Breaking new ground in French Polynesia, this unique program combines the natural beauty of these islands with untapped treasures in the art world. Tahiti and the Society Islands have inspired generations of artists and writers like Herman Melville, James Michener, Henri Matisse, and of course, Paul Gauguin. Continuing the tradition are many talented living artists tucked away on remote islands and a new generation of emerging art students, who are exploring identity in fascinating ways. With hotel nights in Papeete before and after the cruise plus seven nights aboard the award-winning luxury small ship, Paul Gauguin, approach the islands by sea as Polynesian voyagers did two millennia ago and European explorers like Cook, Wallis, and Bougainville later did in the 18th century. Scattered like emeralds across the turquoise waters of the South Pacific, the islands and atolls of French Polynesia are unmatched in their allure. There is no means of transport more perfect than the Paul Gauguin for visiting the five islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Taha’a, and Huahine. Today Tahitians retain many of their age-old ways through their language, dances, food, and activities such as outrigger canoe racing. SBMA has designed an itinerary with a variety of visits to places that few know exist, a rare glimpse at the culture through the eyes of present and past artists, and optional active adventures. Attend lectures by art historian Arnaud de Sullé, an expert on Paul Gauguin, about the complex artist, the primary artistic principles that gave him a unique and considerable place in art history, and “Gauguin and Music,” the topic of de Sullé’s next book. Also included are visits to ancient temples, private homes, a cultural center and the Gump Research Station, pearl and vanilla farms, dance performances, music, star-gazing, and options for lagoon snorkeling, paddling, and relaxing on a motu, or small island. 


Space on this tour is very limited. 

Tour Guide

Nigel McGilchrist

Nigel McGilchrist is SBMA travelers’ favorite study leader. His ability to interpret and disseminate information spellbinds and fascinates his fans.

Nigel McGilchrist was born in Scotland, educated in England, and for the past thirty years has lived and worked in Italy, Greece and Turkey.  He studied first at Winchester College in England, and then at Oxford University where he took First Class Honors and three University prizes and medals in English and in Art History. He lectures widely on art and archaeology at museums and institutions in Europe and the U.S. 

Nigel was introduced to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art by his friend Pico Iyer, with whom he studied at Oxford. Pico carries a deep respect for his former classmate, stating, “In our class at Oxford, Nigel was by far the most brilliant of them all.” Nigel has since led several very popular trips for the Museum and has become a treasured friend to the Museum and its Members.

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