Gauguin, Paul (1848-1903)
Paul Gauguin was born in Paris. Gauguin spent his early childhood in Peru, attended boarding school in France, and was a merchant seaman before becoming a stockbroker's assistant in 1871. Initially a Sunday painter, Gauguin frequented the Nouvelle Athenes Cafe where he met Pissarro and the Impressionists, whose works he purchased. He married in 1873, and it was not until 1883 that Gauguin decided to devote himself to art. After a stay in Rouen with Pissarro, Gauguin went to Copenhagen with his Danish wife only to leave her a few months later.
Gauguin was almost penniless but a loan from Degas enabled him to go to Pont-Aven. There he and Emile Bernard developed Synthetism, a style in which the expression of ideas and emotions are more important than naturalistic representation. In addition, heavy black lines in the manner of cloisonné enamels or stained-glass windows outline flat areas of colour, reminiscent of Japanese woodcuts.
Gauguin spent 1888, the year of his great Synthetist work The Yellow Christ, in Arles with Vincent van Gogh. This adventure ended in near tragedy when van Gogh exhibited signs of madness and Gauguin returned to Brittany before leaving for Tahiti in his search for a simple life and peace of mind that he never really found.
Gauguin's mature style, developed in the South, is a fusion of Oriental influences, personal symbolism, warm colour and strong design and expression. Gauguin remained on 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.