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Adam Mead

Paul Gauguin

Artist Biography

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Paul Gauguin

Gauguin , 1848-1903, was a French painter and woodcut artist born in Paris as the son of a journalist and a French-Peruvian mother. He was first a sailor, then a successful stockbroker in Paris. In 1874 he began to paint on weekends. By the age of 35, with the encouragement of Camille Pissarro, he devoted himself completely to his art, prints and posters, having given up his position and separated (1885) from his wife and five children.

Allying himself with the Impressionists, he exhibited his art, prints and posters with them from 1879 to 1886. The next year he sailed for Panama and Martinique. In protest against the “disease” of civilization, he determined to live primitively, but illness forced him to return to France. The next years were spent in Paris and Brittany, with a brief but tragic stay with Van Gogh at Arles.

In 1888, Gauguin and Émile Bernard proposed a synthetist theory of art, emphasizing the use of flat planes and bright, nonnaturalistic color in conjunction with symbolic or primitive subjects. The Yellow Christ is characteristic of this period. In 1891, Gauguin sold 30 canvases and with the proceeds went to Tahiti. There he spent two years living poorly, painting some of his finest pictures, and writing Noa Noa (1947), an autobiographical novel set in Tahiti. In 1893 he returned to France, collected a legacy, and exhibited his art, prints and postesr, rousing some interest but making very little money. Disheartened and sick from syphilis, which had afflicted him for many years, he again set out for the South Seas in 1895. There his last years were spent in poverty, despair, and physical suffering. In 1897 he attempted suicide and failed, living to paint for five more years. He died on Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands.

Paul Gauguin Art, Prints and Posters Collection