Eug�ne Henri Paul Gauguin

(June 7, 1848 - May 9, 1903) Eug�ne Henri Paul Gauguin was a leading French Post-Impressionist painter. On the subject of line and drawing, Gauguin said in 1879, "One must draw and draw again�It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one day you are amazed to discover that you have found the way to render a thing with its own character�don't make pretty, clever little lines, but be simple and insist on the major lines that count�" His bold experimentation with coloring led directly to the Synthetist style of modern art.

Gauguin was born in Paris, France, he descended from Spanish settlers in South America and the viceroy of Peru, and spent his early childhood in Lima. His father died the year after Gauguin was born and he was raised by his mother in Peru. After his education in Orl�ans, France, Gauguin spent six years sailing around the world in the merchant marines 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 Camille Pissarro in 1875.

A successful stockbroker during week-days, Gauguin spent holidays painting with Pissarro and Cezanne. In 1883-84 the bank that employed Gauguin got into financial difficulties and Gauguin began to paint every day. Although his first efforts were clumsy, he made visible progress. 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 returned to her family.

In 1885, Gauguin met Edgar Degas; the next year he met Charles Laval and Emile Bernard in Pont-Aven and met Vincent van Gogh in Paris. With Laval, he traveled to Panama and Martinique, in 1887, searching for exotic subject matter. Increasingly, Gauguin turned to primitive cultures for inspiration. While in Brittany, in 1888, he met Paul S�rusier and renewed his acquaintance with Bernard. As self-designated Synthetists, they were received in Paris by the Symbolist literary and artistic circle. Gauguin organized a group exhibition of their work at the Caf� Volpini, Paris, in 1889, to correspond with the World's Fair.

Like his friend Vincent Van Gogh, with whom he spent nine weeks painting in Arles, Paul Gauguin experienced bouts of depression and at one time attempted suicide. Disappointed with Impressionism, he felt that traditional European painting had become too imitative and lacked symbolic depth. By contrast, the art of primitive Africa and Asia seemed to him full of mystic symbolism and vigor.

Under the influence of folk art and Japanese prints, Gauguin evolved towards the manner he called Cloisonnism. In The Yellow Christ (1889), often cited as a quintessential Cloisonnist work, image was reduced to areas of pure color separated by heavy black outlines. In such works Gauguin paid little attention to classical perspective and boldly eliminated subtle gradations of color � he dispensed with the two most characteristic principles of post-Renaissance painting.

In 1891, Gauguin, frustrated by lack of recognition at home and financially destitute, sailed to the tropics to escape European civilization and "everything that is artificial and conventional." Gauguin auctioned his paintings to raise money for a voyage to Tahiti, which he made that year. His works of that period are full of quasi-religious symbolism and an exoticized view of the inhabitants of Polynesia. In 1901 Gauguin sought still more distant and freer lands, the Marquesas Islands, where he built a cabin he called the House of Joy on the beautiful island of Dominique. Gauguin died there in 1903.

He is buried in Calvary Cemetery (Cimeti�re Calvaire), Atuona, Hiva 'Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia.

The vogue for Gauguin's work started soon after his death. Many of his later paintings were acquired by the Russian collector Sergei Shchukin. A substantial part of his collection is displayed in the Pushkin Museum. Gauguin paintings are rarely offered for sale; their price may be as high as $39.2 million. Sadly, Gauguin did not ever reap the rewards of his work.


- By Julie V.

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