Paul Gauguin Biography

“Color which, like music, is a matter of vibrations, reaches what is most general and therefore most indefinable in nature: its inner power.”

— Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin (7 June 1848 – 8 May 1903) was born in Paris, France in 1848, and became a leading post-impressionist painter who developed a new style which fused impressionism with a more avant-garde style.

Paul GauguinFor the first seven years of his life, he lived in Peru due to his mother’s Peruvian roots. But, he spent most of his childhood being brought up in Paris, where he excelled as a student and became interested in art. Initially he gained work on a merchant ship, before joining the French navy for two years. He later quit and became a stockbroker. Back in Paris, he became acquainted with the burgdeoning art community, and formed a good friendship with the artist Camille Pissarro. In 1873, he married a Danish woman, Mette Sophie Gad – they had five children. At one point, Guaguin was working as a stockbroker in Copenhagen, but his desire to paint was too strong. He gave up his job and returned to Paris, leaving his family behind.

Initially Gauguin was interested in impressionism, but increasingly he felt it was stilted and artists were merely imitating each others. He became increasingly interested with African and Asian art. He felt this captured greater symbolism and hidden meaning. In 1887, he spent time in Martinique, where he lived in a primitive hut, becoming immersed in the local culture.

1888 he spent nine weeks painting in Arles, with his friend Vincent Van Gogh. They both had a great mutual respect, however, being of a similar temprement, they had a volatile relationship. Both suffered from periods of depression and manic mood swings. Despite great love, they also had fierce arguments. However, this period was profitable for both artists.

Early art career

paul-gauguin

The Yellow Christ – 1889

The Yellow Christ (1889), is an example of a Cloisonnist work; the image is simplified to stark ares of pure colour. It was a sharp contrast to the gradual colour change of classical post-renaissance art. Despite impressing some fellow artists, his bold work did not find favour, and Gauguin struggled to gain any significant financial rewards. In 1891, he sailed to the tropics, looking for a tropical paradise where he would be free to live a simple life and paint.

Gauguin became a great supporter of the local Polynesian natives. He sided them with over disputes with Colonial powers and the Catholic church. During this period he wrote short essays about Martinique and Polynesia.

Gauguin died on May 8, 1903, from complications resulting from syphilis and is buried in Calvary Cemetery (Cimetière Calvaire), Atuona, Hiva ‘Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia.

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