Paul Gauguin – post-impressionist and first downshifter

Paul Gauguin's Armchair (1888)
Paul Gauguin’s Armchair (1888)

Paul Gauguin was a French painter whose name is inextricably linked with the birth and development of Post-Impressionism. Along with Paul Cezanne, Van Gogh and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin absorbed the lessons of the Impressionists and then renounced the style, creating his own artistic style.

Biography and work of Paul Gauguin

Eugene Henri Paul Gauguin was born in Paris on a warm summer day on June 7, 1848. And almost immediately the baby became involved in political events: after the defeat of the revolution, the father of the family, a columnist for the liberal newspaper Le National, Clovis Gauguin decided to move his family to Peru. He did not have a chance to start a new life in South America – on the way he suddenly died from a ruptured aneurysm. The widowed mother found shelter with wealthy relatives in Lima: the early years of the future artist passed there, leaving the most vivid impressions in her soul.

Paul Gauguin. Landscape at Le Pouldu.
Paul Gauguin. Landscape at Le Pouldu.

When it was time for Paul Gauguin to study, the family returned to France. In Orleans, he changed several schools and graduated from a Catholic seminary, which he hated. The young man dreamed of a nautical school that would give him the opportunity to travel the world and get acquainted with other countries. However, he failed the exam, in 1865 he enlisted in the merchant fleet as a sailor and, in this capacity, sailed to Brazil, Chile, and Europe.

After the Franco-Prussian War, acquaintances helped him become a stockbroker. The young man managed to achieve prosperity and a high reputation in business circles. In 1873 he married a Danish woman, Mette Gad. The first experiments of Paul in painting belong to the same time. He attended a class at the private Colarossi Academy, where he learned the basics of drawing from nature.

Synthetism. Paul Gauguin. Vision after the Sermon, 1888
Paul Gauguin. Vision after the Sermon, 1888

Success in painting

In 1876, Gauguin exhibited his first painting at the Salon, an annual Parisian exhibition. The work of Gauguin was noticed by the patriarch of impressionism Camille Pissarro, about whom Paul wrote at the end of his life: “He was one of my teachers, and I will not deny this.”

In 1883, already the father of five children, Gauguin lost his job due to a crisis in the stock market and decided to devote himself entirely to art. Hopes to succeed in creativity failed, the wife took the children and went to her parents in Denmark.

In 1891, after several years of living in Brittany, where young artists of the Pont-Aven school gathered around him, the painter went to Tahiti. In the following year alone, he painted over 80 paintings.

Woman with a Flower (1891)
Woman with a Flower (1891)

The end of the artist’s life

After a brief visit to Paris in 1895, Gauguin returned to French Polynesia. Here he died on May 8, 1903 – unrecognized, lonely, abandoned by relatives.

Self-portrait with halo (1889)
Self-portrait with halo (1889)

As often happens, the master was not appreciated by his contemporaries, and only after his death did everyone seem to open their eyes. At a retrospective exhibition of works by Gauguin, which took place three years after his death, belated fame came to the painter.

The scale of talent and the originality of Gauguin’s personality subsequently inspired writers and filmmakers more than once. In Somerset Maugham’s “Moon and a Penny”, he is described under the name of Charles Strickland, Mario Vargas Llosa dedicated his novel “Paradise – a little further” to him. In biographical films about the artist, such stars as Donald and Kiefer Sutherland (in various films), Vincent Cassel were invited to play the main role.

Van Gogh painting sunflowers (1888)
Van Gogh painting sunflowers (1888)
What's new (1892).
What’s new (1892).
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