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Paul Gauguin. Famous Artist.
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Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin
Born:1848-01-01   Died: 1903-01-01

Born Eugene Henri Paul Gauguin in Paris, France, was a descedent of Spanish settlers in South America and the viceroy of Peru. He spent his early childhood in Lima. After his education in Orleans, France, Gauguin spent six years sailing around the world in the Merchant Marine and then in the French Navy. Upon his return to France in 1870, he took a job as a broker's assistant. His guardian, Gustave Arosa, a successful businessman and art collector, introduced Gauguin to the impressionist painters.

A successful stockbroker, Gauguin became a collector and amateur painter. By 1884 Gauguin had moved with his family to Copenhagen, where he unsuccessfully pursued a business career. Driven to paint full-time, he returned to Paris in 1885, leaving his family in Denmark. Without adequate subsistence, his wife and children were forced to return to her family. Like his friend Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin suffered from bouts of depression and at one time attempted suicide. In 1891, financially destitute, he sailed to the Tropics to escape European civilization and "everything that is artificial and conventional. " He remained first in Tahiti and later in the Marquesas Islands for most of the rest of his life, only once returning to France.

He was a very important post-impressionist French painter, whose work helped provide the basis of modern art. Gauguin's bold experimentation with coloring led directly to the fauvist style of the 20th century. The record price paid for a Gauguin painting is US$35 million.


"Art is either plagiarism or revolution."

"I shut my eyes in order to see."

"Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge."

"We never really know what stupidity is until we have experimented on ourselves.Life is hardly more than a fraction of a second. Such a little time to prepare oneself for eternity!"

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  • Paul Gauguin
    Paul Gauguin

    Lived and painted Tahiti!

  • Horsemen on the Beach.
    Horsemen on the Beach.

    Location:Stavros Niarchos collection

    Gauguin painted this landscape after he had returned from Tahiti. It is obvious that he still had the exotic colours of the South Pacific in his mind. The delicate pinks, the dark bodies of the horses and the vibrant blue of the sea make this painting a visual treat.

  • Les Parau Parau (Conversation).
    Les Parau Parau (Conversation).

    Location:The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

    Gauguin searched for a place where he could live in ecstasy, calmness and art' for most of his life. He searched for a more honest and sincere way of life. This search eventually led him to Tahiti. He painted this evocative painting shortly after his arrival. In Tahiti he discovered native artworks and was immediately fascinated with their flat forms and strong colours. He saw them as evidence of a wilder, less manipulated nature and incorporated these ideas into his own creative vision. Gauguin left Tahiti in 1891returned in 1895 and stayed there for the rest of his life.

  • Tahitian Women (On the Beach).
    Tahitian Women (On the Beach).

    Location:Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France

    "I am a great artist and I know it. And it is precisely because I am that I have suffered greatly: to follow my life, otherwise I would consider myself an outlaw. This is what I am for many. In the end, what does it matter? What torments me most is not so much the poverty as the continuous obstacles to my art that I cannot do as I feel it, and could do without the poverty that tie my hands. You say that I am wrong in wanting to stay away from the art centres. No, I am right: it is some time now that I know what I am doing and why I am doing it. My artistic centre is in my brain and nowhere else, and I am great because I do not let myself be disturbed by others and because I do what is inside me." Paul Gauguin, Tahiti, March 1892.

  • The Four Breton Girls.
    The Four Breton Girls.

    Location:Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

    This is one of the fine examples of Gauguin's work during the late 1880s period. His painting technique by then had departed from the Impressionists. He used broad areas of colour, relatively flat but nevertheless containing subtle variations of hue that give them a rich glow. He often added wax to his paints to give them extra smoothness and flow, and the paint is seldom thick, being thinnest at the edges of forms, where Prussian blue or earth red is often used to outline and strengthen the shapes. Sometimes parts of backgrounds were applied with a palette knife and then overlaid with thin, translucent paint put on with a brush.

  • Women from Arles in the Public Garden.
    Women from Arles in the Public Garden.

    Location:Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

    This is one of the paintings Gauguin produced when he stayed with Vincent van Gough in Arles for two months. The two great artists worked side by side. Their methods were quite different. Van Gough painted rapidly, with thick coats of pigment. He preferred to work directly from nature. Gauguin worked from memory building his image with thin layers of colour in a slow, methodical way. The composition of this painting has almost abstract qualities and the three women of Arles are sometimes, ironically referred to as the 'Three Graces'. The two artists argued and debated the aesthetics of painting to a point where Vincent threatened Gauguin with a blade. Gauguin fled and never saw van Gogh again.

Learning art through great artists and their paintings is fun and exciting. Our friend and resident artist Stefan Mager has kindly given this introduction to the art world.

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