Paul Gauguin - Self Portrait, Les Miserables (Detail), 1888 - Image Copyright Gauguin Museum

Paul Gauguin /   Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin

France 1848 - 1903

Post-impressionism, Symbolism, Primitivism

Paul Gauguin
Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin
April 23, 2016
Bojan is an author for Widewalls. He is particularly interested in English linguistics and culture. Bojan is also interested in Photography and Digital Art.

Truly disappointed with Impressionism, claiming that the European painting had become imitative and deprived of symbolic depth, Paul Gauguin turned to the art of Africa and Asia in a pursuit for the primitive style. Leaving his wife and five children, he had worked for a short time on the Panama Canal, before sailed to tropical islands of Tahiti and Marquesas in French Polynesia. In the focus of his interests were young native girls who were his models and lovers. Inspired by the primitivism of this land, both physically and spiritually escaped from his heritage, Gauguin left the post-Renaissance postulates, paying no attention to perspective or gradations of colors and shadings. Distancing from Impressionism, his work is recognizable for his experimental use of color, semi-decorative approach and Synthetist style.

Paul Gauguin - Garden in Rue Carcel, 1883, photo credits wikiartorg pont aven impressionst paul paris life gogh gallery painting life portrait works
Paul Gauguin – Garden in Rue Carcel, 1883, photo credits

The Amateur Painter

Born in Paris, his family soon after moved to Peru. His father was a journalist and after his death on the way to South America, at the age of seven, Gauguin returned to France with his mother. After he finished his formal education, he joined the French Navy and later worked as a stockbroker. Being a self-taught, painting was a hobby which during the time became his only interest. When one of his works was accepted in the Salon of 1876, he met Camille Pissarro who introduced him to other impressionists. Gauguin exhibited in Impressionists show held in 1881 and 1882, but it passed unnoticed.

His work is recognizable for his experimental use of color, semi-decorative approach and Synthetist style

Paul Gauguin - Vision After the Sermon, photo credits tahiti paintings vincent family paul pont gallery painting life portrait modern works impressionist
Paul Gauguin – Vision After the Sermon, photo credits

Emerging Artist

Leaving his job of a stockbroker, he was fully devoted to his art. In 1888, he created one of his most impressive painting, Vision of the Sermon, depicting the biblical tale of Jacob wrestling with the angel. Afterward, follow the other Biblical stories, as The Yellow Christ, prominent representation of Crucifixion, familiar and often exploited theme. In that time, Gauguin shared his living and artistic space with Vincent Van Gogh, residing Van Gog’s yellow house in Arles. Their companionship lasted for nine weeks and after the serious fight, when his friend pulled out the razor blade, Gauguin had left. The two artists newer saw each other again.

For some time, Gauguin shared his living and artistic space with Van Gogh

Paul Gauguin - The Day of the God, 1894, photo credits pont aven impressionist paul paris life gogh gallery painting life portrait works
Paul Gauguin – The Day of the God, 1894, photo credits

Searching for a Tropical Paradise

Searching for the escape from artificial and conventional, frustrated by the lack of recognition, he left Europe in a quest for tropical paradise. He has settled among the natives, borrowing the elements and symbols from their culture. In 1893, he returned to France with the aim to show some of his new works. The critic was divided and he wasn’t able to sell much. In 1897, Gauguin created his masterpiece Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?, the painting which represents the culmination of his thoughts. Conceived to be read from right to left, this monumental piece represents three female figures which symbolize the questions in the title, depicting the human life cycle.

Three female figures symbolize the questions in the title

Paul Gauguin - Where do we come from What are we Where are we going, 1897, photo credits tahiti vincent pont modern impressionist family paintings
Paul Gauguin – Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? 1897, photo credits

Posthumous Recognition

In 1901, Paul Gauguin moved to the Marquesas Island. Experiencing several heart attacks, his health was getting worse because his advanced case of syphilis. In that time, he painted landscapes, still lifes and figure studies, avoiding the themes of lost paradise. He died suddenly on May 8, 1903, alone and nearly out of money, in his isolated cottage in Hiva Oa on the Marquesas Islands. After his death, his art started to receive great acclaim, probably thanks to Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse who stated interest and affection to his work. Two posthumous retrospective exhibitions held in Paris in 1903 and 1906 had a stunning influence on the French avant-garde. His legacy is of tremendous importance and today, his paintings reach the prices of tens of millions US dollars in the auctions.

Featured image: Paul Gauguin – Self Portrait: Les Miserables, 1888, photo credits
All images used for illustrative purpose only

Upcoming Events

Louis Anquetin - L'Avenue de Clichy, 1887 (detail)
Jun 03rd, 2020 - Jun 03rd, 2020

Oeuvres Modernes sur papier

Christie's Paris, Paris, France, 9 Avenue Matignon, Paris, France

Please select an option to add Oeuvres Modernes sur papier into your calendar

YearExhibition titleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Japan’s Love for Impressionism from Monet to Renoir Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, BonnGroup
2015Japanese Inspirations: Monet, Gauguin, Van GoghMuseum Folkwang, EssenGroup
2015Gauguin to Warhol: 20th Century Icons from the Albright-Knox Art GalleryThe San Diego Museum of Art, San DiegoGroup
2015Cezanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman CollectionHigh Museum of Art, AtlantaGroup
2015Cezanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman CollectionVancouver Art Gallery, VancouverGroup
2015Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art, WashingtonMitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, TokyoGroup
2014Gauguin, Bonnard, Denis: Prophets of the Avante-GardeState Hermitage Museum, St PetersburgGroup
2014Paul Gauguin ExhibitionLower Belvedere, ViennaSolo
2014Around Monet: The Landscape from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth CenturyPalazzo della Gran Guardia, VeronaGroup
2014Tales of Paradise: GauguinOrdovas, LondonSolo
2014From Matisse to the Blue Rider: Expressionism in Germany and FranceKunsthaus Zurich, ZurichGroup
2014Gauguin: MetamorphosesThe Museum of Modern Art, New YorkSolo
2014Cezanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman CollectionAshmolean Museum, OxfordGroup
2014Cezanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman CollectionMusee Granet, Aux-en-ProvenceGroup
2013Gauguin and Polynesia:  An Elusive ParadiseSeattle Art Museum, Seattle, WashingtonSolo
2013Changing Perspectives: Degas – Picasso | Gauguin – Nolde | Monet - MackeNeue Pinakothek, MunichGroup
2013The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for ModernismPortland Museum of Art, PortlandGroup
2013Gauguin: Voyage into the MythSeoul Museum of Art, SeoulSolo
2013Gauguin’s NudesMusée Bonnard, Le Cannet, France Solo
2012Paul Gauguin, The Dream of PanamaMuseum of the Panama Canal, Casco Antiguo, PanamaSolo
2011Gauguin: Maker of MythNational Gallery of Art, New YorkSolo
1906 Salon d’AutomneParisGroup
1903 Salon d’AutomneParisGroup
1896Paul GauguinUnknownSolo
1895Paul GauguinHôtel Drouot, ParisSolo
1893Paul GauguinGalerie Durand-Ruel, ParisSolo
1892Copenhagen exhibition of modern artCopenhagenGroup
1891Les XX ParisGroup
1891Paul GauguinParisSolo
1889The Volpini ExhibitionCafé des Arts, ParisGroup
1889Les XX ParisGroup
1887Boussod and Valadon exhibition through art dealer, Theo Van GoghParisGroup
1886 8th Impressionist ExhibitionParisGroup
18827th Impressionist ExhibitionParisGroup
18816th Impressionist Exhibition ParisGroup
1880 5th Impressionist ExhibitionParisGroup
1879 4th Impressionist ExhibitionParisGroup
1876Salon d'AutomneParisGroup
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