Paul Gauguin French, 1848-1903

Biography

After spending his early childhood in Peru (his father was fleeing the Napoleon III regime), Paul Gauguin arrives in mainland France at the age of 7. After graduation, he decides to join the French navy and serves between 1865 and 1871. After the army, Gauguin becomes a quite successful foreign exchange broker at the Paris Stock Exchange. In 1874, he discovers the first impressionist exhibition as an art collector.

 

Close to Camille Pissarro, he starts to experiment with impressionists' techniques before abandoning his position in finance to devote himself entirely to painting at the age of 35.

Facing this new financial precarity, his Danish wife returns to her homeland, taking with her their 5 children.

 

1886 marks Gauguin's first stay in Brittany, followed by a travel to Martinique the next year. At his return, he grows close friends with Vincent van Gogh and leaves for the second time to Pont-Aven in Brittany at the end of 1887. The region attracts him for its secular customs, Gauguin is especially fond of ancestral traditional wrestling. There, he develops fructuous artistic exchanges with Emil Bernard. Together the two artists build the bases of Cloisonnism and Synthetism. Gauguin teaches these new concepts to young Paul Sérusier, who brings to Paris the small canvas "Talisman" (1888), that became famous for being the inspiration of the creation of the Nabis group.

 

At the end of 1888, Gauguin spends two conflictual months with Van Gogh in Arles, he later returns to Brittany in 1889 and 1890. Back in Paris, he frequents Stéphane Mallarmé and the symbolists.

 

In 1891, Gauguin embarks for his first long stay in Tahiti. He comes back to Paris in 1893 where he exhibits without much success at the Durant-Ruel gallery in 1895. He experiments with wood engraving and leaves again to Tahiti.

 

Gauguin suffers from alcoholism and syphilis when he learns about the premature death of his favorite daughter. He paints his famous large work "D'où venons-nous? Que faisons-nous? Où allons-nous?" (Where do we come from? What are we doing? Where are we going?) - and attempts to take his own life.

 

In 1901, Gauguin embarks for the Marquesas Islands in order to live into the wild, even further from any form of western civilization and dies two years later.