Paul Gauguin : A Visionary French Post-Impressionist

The remarkable Paul Gauguin was born on the 7th June in the year of 1848. He was a specialist when it came to the style of Post-Impressionist painting. He was very much interested in performing various experiments with his artistic style and that brought amazing outputs for the world to see. He also used to experiment with colors and led him to develop a modern style of art. The paintings reflected his own subjects which he wished to talk about. His main themes included the patristic side of the world and primitivism. Another strong contribution of his to the universe of art was his work with wood in the form engravings and cuts.


Born in the city of Paris, Gauguin belonged to a hardworking French family. His father was a journalist. The family decided to migrate towards Peru in the year 1851 during a tough political time. During that fateful journey, his father died. Gauguin was only a three year old when this sad incident happened in his life. The remaining family lived in Peru for a period of four years and after that they returned back to France.

Gauguin developed a keen interest in studies. When he turned 17, he became a pilot assistant and embarked on the journey to get admitted into the marine life. After 3 years of working as an assistant, he eventually got enrolled in the navy. He retained his job in the navy for a period of two years. After this experience, he attained the post of a stockbroker in Paris. His marriage took place in 1873 with a Danish lady. She gave birth to his five children later on.

Interest in Art

Paul Gauguin PaintingA genuine interest in the world of Art was brought up inside Gauguin since his childhood. At first, this interest developed as a hobby. After that, he started visiting galleries and developed a strong love for art. He also became friends with an artist, Pissarro, who was responsible for introducing Gauguin to other artists. Soon enough, the hobby became a serious passion. A studio was rented by him and he started displaying his work particular in the exhibitions dealing with the Impressionist work in the years of 1881 and also 1882.  His passion for art was so strong that he left his family in Denmark and settled in Paris.

Gauguin was a sensitive soul, he used to experience moments of depression and he once also tried to attempt suicide. He got inspired from the artistic works of African and Asian painters as he considered their work to contain a lot of mystery and symbolism. Under the impact of foreign works, Gauguin went towards the style of Cloisonnism. This style quenched his thirst because Gauguin was now fully able to express his thoughts in it. It was the right technique for him. He continued to work in this direction. After that, his painting style evolved more and he went towards the style of Synthetism. In this technique, neither form nor colors dominate in the creation, rather both are given an equal role in the work.

Frustrated by his personal and financial problems, Gauguin decided to move to different places in the year 1891. He first embarked towards the tropical areas because he wanted to run away from the artificial European civilization. In the land of Tahiti, he came to create some memorable pastoral paintings, including “Fatata te Miti” (“By the Sea”) and also “Ia Orana Maria” (Ave Maria). After that, in the year 1897, he went towards Punaauia where he came to create one his remarkable masterpieces called as “Where Do We Come From”. After this adventure, he settled in Marquesas Islands. His later works contained religious symbols heavily and they displayed an exotic lifestyle of Polynesians.

He also got to participate in the politics of this area by siding with the natives during the colonial clashes between the imperialists and catholic churches. In this period, his literary side evolved and he wrote a book by the name of “Avant et après” (before and after). This book was actually a compilation of his own observations regarding his lifestyle in Polynesia, his past memories and his personal views on literature and also paintings. Due to up surging conflicts and Gauguin’s active participation in them, he was sent to jail in 1903 for a period of 3 months along with a heavy fine. Before this prison period started, Gaugin already became the victim of a health problem called syphilis this was caused by his addiction to alcohol and his inner depression. Thus in the year 1903, he died when he was only 54 years old and was buried in Polynesia.

The Legacy

The technique that Gauguin’s legacy brought to the world of art was Primitivism. This was basically a movement belonging to the late 19th century in France  and related its ideas through the mediums of paint and sculpture. There were other French maestros as well, namely Eugene Delacroix and Edgar Degas. This school of thought presented paintings containing larger-than-life proportions of bodies, along with a display of animal totems, plus the intricate geometric designs and also the stark contrasts. It was indeed the creative genius of Paul Gauguin who made use of this technique and brought revolutionary ideas to art. His artwork was adored because it brought new and foreign elements which were never viewed before. The Europeans who used to visit his exhibitions became immediately fascinated with the depiction of wild artwork related with Africa, Asia and Americans.

In the field of Post-Impressionism, his contribution is remarkable as well. Using colors and design with boldness, he paved way for Modern Art to develop positively. His work inspired numerous forthcoming artists in this field, including Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and André Derain. Not only artists, but there were more artistic school of thoughts that became inspired from him in the early years of the 20th century, these include Cubism, Fauvism, and Orphism etc. He is also called as one of the strong pioneers in the field of Post-Impressionism. Thus, this phenomenal heritage left by Gauguin truly etched him as legendary in the world of art and paint.

About the author

Arlene is a passionate art lover, with interests including researching famous historic painters, oil paintings, wall arts, and doodling around with colors!

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