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Learn more about Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin, the most exotic of the Post-Impressionists, was born in Paris.
The son of a French journalist and a Peruvian woman, Gauguin spent his early childhood in Peru, attended a boarding school in
France, and was a merchant seaman before becoming a stockbroker's assistant in 1871. At first merely an occasional painter
Gauguin frequented the Nouvelle Athenes Café where he met Pissarro and
the Impressionists, whose works he purchased. He had married in 1873, and so it was not until ten years later that Gauguin
decided to give up the business world and devote himself to the artistic. After a period in Rouen where he stayed
with Pissarro, who had encouraged him, Gauguin went to Copenhagen
with his Danish wife only to leave his family forever a few months later. Gauguin was then past thirty-five and almost
penniless, though a loan from Degas, who approved of his theories on the
importance of line, permitted him to go to Pont-Aven where he and Emile Bernard would develop Synthetism, a style in which
the expression of ideas and emotions are more important than naturalistic representations, and flat color areas reminiscent
of Japanese woodcuts are outlined by heavy black lines in the manner of cloisonné enamels or stained-glass windows.
Abandoning his earlier Impressionism, Gauguin painted in this manner and also made ceramics and wood carvings to earn a little money. These were decorative, finely conceived Art Nouveau pieces, tinged with a symbolism learned from Puvis de Chavannes, whom he had also admired. In 1887 Gauguin made an unsuccessful trip to Martinique in his search for a primitive way of life. He spent 1888, the year of his great Synthetist work "The Yellow Christ", in Arles with Vincent van Gogh. This adventure ended in near tragedy as Van Gogh exhibited signs of madness. Gauguin returned shortly to Brittany before leaving for Tahiti on his constant quest for the simple life and the peace of mind he would never really find.
Gauguin's mature style, developed in the South, is a fusion of Oriental influences, personal symbolism, warm color, strong design, and musically rich expression that offers a spiritual image of the creative artist constantly seeking the unattainable. Gauguin remained in Tahiti until 1893, when ill health and lack of funds forced his return to Paris. He remained there until 1895 when he again settled in Tahiti. His stay there ended in 1901 when seriously ill with syphilis and in trouble with the French authorities. He moved to the Marquesas, seeking an easier and cheaper life. His health, unfortunately, deteriorated still further but he continued to paint until he died on May 8, 1903.