|Paul Gauguin (1848 - 1903)
Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin was born in
Paris on 7 June, 1848, the son of Clovis Gauguin, a Republican editor, and his
wife Aline Marie Chazal. In 1849, after Louis Napoléon came to power, the family
emigrated to Peru. Clovis Gauguin died on the way. His widow and 2 children
(Paul and his elder sister Mari) stayed in Lima with their rich relatives and
did not return to France until 1855. On coming back they settled with the uncle
Isidore Gauguin in Orléans. In 1865, Paul became a sailor and spent the next
three years voyaging between France and South America, and made a voyage around
the world. In 1868, Paul joined the navy, which he left after the
Franco-Prussian War. Instead, he started to work as a broker’s agent in Paris.
The first known drawings by Gauguin dated 1871, when he was in his late twenties.
In the broker’s agency Gauguin met and befriended Claude-Emile Schuffenecker
(1851-1934), a shy clerk, who shared Gauguin’s interest in painting, they both
started to study painting at the Colarossi Academy, worked together en plein-air
and in the Louvre and met Parisian artists.
In 1873, Gauguin married a Dane,
Mette Sophie Gad (1850-1920), who gave birth to his 5 children: Emile (1874 - ),
Aline (1877-1897), Clovis (1879-1900), Jean René (1881-1961) and Pola
In 1874, Gauguin met Pissaro and
other Impressionists. He traded at the stock exchange, which provided a
comfortable income and he bought many of the Impressionists' paintings and had a
handsome collection. His début in the Salon took place in 1876. He also
exhibited paintings and sculptures with Impressionists and the Indépendents in
1879, 1880 and 1882. The works of the period are close to Impressionism; he was
greatly influenced by Pissaro, who gave his advice generously, and later by
Cezanne. But gradually Gauguin broke away from Impressionism and adopted a
bolder style - radical simplifications of drawing, brilliant, pure, bright
colors, an ornamental character of composition, and deliberate flatness of
planes, the style, which he called ‘synthetic symbolism’.
Plagued by illness (his health was
ruined by alcohol and syphilis), depression and financial worries, in 1898 he
even attempted suicide, Gauguin still painted numerous masterpieces D'où venons
nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous? (Where Do We come from? What Are We?
Where Are We Going?) (1897), And the Gold of Their Bodies (Et l'or de leurs
In 1900, after a contract with
Vollard, a Parisian dealer, his financial position improved, but his health was
irreparably ruined. In 1901 he moved from Tahiti to Atuana on the Island of
Dominique in the Marquesas, where his colors grew even more abundant and lush,
and where he executed such pink and mauve paintings as Horsemen on the Beach.
(1902) and The Call. (1902).
In 1903, Gauguin was sentences to
three-months in prison and fined 1,000 francs because of problems with the
church and the colonial administration. Before he could begin his sentence he
died, on the 8th of May at his home in Atuana.