|Born||June 7, 1848
|Died||May 8, 1903 (at age 54)
Atuona, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
|Field||Painting, sculpture, ceramics, engraving|
|Famous Paintings by Paul Gauguin|
|Spirit of the Dead Watching, 1892|
|Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, 1897-1898|
|The Yellow Christ, 1889|
|The Green Christ, 1889|
|Tahitian Women on the Beach, 1891|
|Vision After the Sermon, 1888|
People have witnessed great works from artists who captured life in their works, artists who work on naturalism and realism. On the other end are artists who style their works with heroic or ideal themes. While the former dwells on subjects in the natural world, the latter dwells on spirituality and imagination. This is called Symbolism. One of the prominent figures in Symbolism is Paul Gauguin.
Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin was a top Post-Impressionist artist from France and made his name in the Symbolist movement as a ceramist, writer, sculptor, print-maker, and, of course, painter. He experimented boldly on coloring, directly leading to modern art’s Synthetist style. He also contributed to the creation of a path towards Primitivism and a comeback to the pastoral. He also had influences on wood engravings and woodcuts becoming conventional art mediums.
It was June 7, 1848 when Paul Gauguin was born in Paris, France. His father was a journalist named Clovis Gauguin and his mother was Alina Maria Chazal, offspring of Flora Tristan, a herald of feminism. Because of the political situation during the period, Gauguin’s family moved to Peru in 1851. Clovis perished on the travel which left Paul, three years old at that time, with his mother, along with his sister, to live on their own. They stayed in Lima at an uncle’s house for four years. Peru’s scenes and images would be a big influence on Paul’s works.
They went back to France when Paul was seven. They lived at Orléans in his grandfather’s house. He then studied French and became excellent with his academics. At the age of seventeen, he became a pilot’s subordinate, in the merchant marine, as fulfillment of his mandatory service in the military. Three years after that, he enlisted in the naval force of France and stayed in a span of two years. Gauguin returned to Paris in 1871. He became a stockbroker.
He married the Danish Mette-Sophie Gad in 1873. She bore him five children. In 1884, he and his family moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he became a stockbroker. After 11 years, his family fell apart after he decided to delve into painting full-time. His wife asked him to leave because he repudiated their shared values. With this, he returned to Paris in 1885. It was in 1891 when he had his last physical contact with his family. Two of his children died before him.
Gauguin was a friend of Vincent Van Gogh. They painted together in Arles in 1888 for a period of two months and one week. One thing he had in common with Van Gogh was the episodes of depression he went through. At one point, he tried to commit suicide. Later, he went to Martinique in search of an idyllic landscape. There, he worked on the construction of Panama Canal as a laborer. This particular job lasted only for two weeks.
Gauguin traveled to Tahiti in 1891 to get away from European Civilization. Also, to rest from conventional and artificial things. His experiences in Tahiti were written in his book Noa Noa.
Gauguin left France for good in 1895. The time he spent in the Marquesas Island and Tahiti became a subject of interest mostly because of his supposed sexual activities. He was believed to have had meetings with young native females. Some of them were depicted in his paintings. He had a number of children with his mistresses.
Paul Gauguin died at the age of 54 in 1903. He had syphilis but the cause of death was morphine overdose. He died before the start of his prison sentence – received because of a libel case.
Gauguin started painting during his leisure time. He also went to galleries and bought works from emerging artists. Camille Pissarro became his friend and presented him to other artists. He was eventually able to rent a studio. His paintings were exhibited in 1881 and 1882. In the duration of two holidays that summer, he worked with Pissarro and on some occasions, Paul Cezanne.
In 1887, Gauguin spent a number of months in Martinique, within an area near Saint Pierre. With him was the artist Charles Laval. He lived in a hut and enjoyed observing people’s everyday works. As time went by, the weather got into him. It was too hot during the summers while the rain leaks through the hut, and he became sick eventually. In the time he spent in that place, he made between 10 and 20 paintings.
Along with some other artists, Gauguin frequented Pont-Aven, an artist colony in Britanny. He grew tired of Impressionism and European art in general while he found art from Asia and Africa to be very full of vigor and symbolisms which were mystic in nature.
One of Gauguin’s famous works was Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? This painting was made when he was in Tahiti. This work now resides in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. The piece depicts the answers to the questions in the title and should be read from right to left. The rightmost part shows women with newborn children, to mark the beginning of life. In the middle is a depiction of young adults, and in the left is an old woman on the verge of death.
Other works by Gauguin are Two Tahitian Women, Maternity, Vision After the Sermon, The Moon and the Earth and a lot more which are done using vivid colors and inspired by his experiences.