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Paul Gauguin Artist Biography

Paul Gauguin is probably best known for his paintings of Tahiti. He was a leading Post-Impressionist painter. His bold experimentation with coloring led directly to the Synthetist style of modern art. He was also an influential exponent of wood engraving and woodcuts as art forms.

Paul Gauguin was born in the Paris at the height of the 1848 Revolution. His childhood was spent in Lima. In 1865, when he turned eighteen, he joined the merchant marines for two years followed by three years with the French Navy.

In 1871, Paul Gauguin secured a job as a stockbroker in Paris and painted in his spare time. He collected works by artists such as Manet, Monet and Cezanne which he studied intently.

It was Camille Pissarro who was his greatest influence and in 1883 Paul Gauguin moved to Rouen to be closer to the man. By this time, with his wife Mette Gad, he had a family based in Copenhagen. As he gave up his job he could no longer support them financially and effectively abandoned them and everything besides for his art. He went to Brittany in 1886 and produced works such as 'The Bathers' which still owed a great debt to the Impressionists. However, in Pont-Aven he met Emile Bernard who introduced Paul Gauguin to the concept of 'cloisonism', a visual equivalent of symbolist poetry in which only the essence of an object was expressed. This idea led to the creation of 'Vision After The Sermon' (1888), his first masterpiece.

A year later, he was excluded from the official Universal Exhibition in Paris but managed to hang his and his associates' paintings in the Cafe des Arts entitling themselves, 'The Impressionist and Synthetist Group'. Although not rousing great interest the pictures did serve to raise his profile somewhat. His paintings contained increasing amounts of religious imagery often featuring himself in the role of one of the protagonists. He used vivid colors unnaturally, reflecting his interest in primitive art forms and his desire to recapture some lost paradise from his youth.

By 1891, Paul Gauguin was gaining quite a reputation but instead of consolidating this new found success he fled to Tahiti. It was not the paradise he had been seeking yet he remained for two years and produced almost 80 paintings. Poverty and illness drove him back to France but after receiving an inheritance from the death of an uncle he headed back to Tahiti once more.

In 1897, his daughter, Aline dies and falling into a deep depression completes one of his finest works, 'Where do we come from...?'. Soon after, he makes an attempted suicide then eventually takes up a post as government draughtsman in Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia.

Paul Gauguin died in 1903 and is buried in Calvary Cemetery (Cimetière Calvaire), Atuona, Hiva ‘Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia.

Three years after his death in 1903, a huge exhibition of his work took place at the Salon d'Automne in Paris. It is regarded as one of the most influential exhibitions of the 20thcentury. His richly colored, highly evocative work has inspired countless artists.

"I am a great artist and I know it. It is because I am that I have endured such suffering."

More art prints from Paul Gauguin

Chemin a papeete By Paul Gauguin
Village in Tahiti By Paul Gauguin
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