Artists People

Paul Gauguin

Tehamana Has Many Parents

Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin or Paul Gauguin was an impressionist artist.  He was born on June 7, 1848 in Paris, France.  Three years of his childhood were spent at an esteemed Catholic boarding school.  He attended a naval preparatory academy at the age of fourteen.  Time passed.  Gauguin joined the French navy.  He served for two years.

The artist returned to Paris to work as a stockbroker in 1871.  He was twenty-three years old.  A family connection landed him a job at Paris Bourse (Euronext Paris).  He became a successful businessman over the next eleven years.  The Paris stock market crashed in 1882.  Gauguin’s salary vanished.  He decided to change careers and work as an artist.

He began to paint in his free time nine years before the crash.  His residence was located near the cafes that hosted the Impressionists.  Paul visited the art galleries and bought pieces from developing artists.  He befriended Camille Pissarro.  Every Sunday they painted together in his garden.  Pissarro introduced Gauguin to his peers.  Paul moved into a home with a studio in 1877.  His first exhibit was in 1881.  His second was in 1882.  The reviews were unfavorable.  The dream was alive.

paul gauguin
Paul Gauguin – Photo Credit: Recuerdos de Pandora

The Artist

The summers were spent working with Pissarro and sometimes Paul Cézanne.  He improved.  He spent time in Copenhagen with his wife and kids.  It stunted his progress.  He moved to Paris.  Marriage is difficult.  Painting is harder.  Sometimes it is harder and sometimes it is not.  It was tough for Paul.  His opinions on technique severed his ties with Pissarro.  He spent the summer months of 1886 at the Pont-Aven School commune in Brittany, France.  The youthful roommates reinvigorated his spirit.  His style developed.

Japanese woodblock prints (Ukiyo-e) and folk art expanded his canvas options.  Gauguin fell into a period of Cloisonnism.  Large plots of color were supported by bold outlines.  The shift turned him to Synthetism.  The outlines vanished.  The color and the shapes had an equal impact on the viewer.  In 1887 he visited Martinique and lived in a hut.  The harsh living conditions of the Caribbean were enlightening.  He finished a dozen paintings and left.  The subject matter followed.

The new artwork was spotted by Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo.  Big T was an art broker for the international merchant and auction house Goupil & Cie.  Theo bought three of Gauguin’s paintings for his office.  The exposure introduced Paul to wealthy clients and created a friendship with Vincent.  The two masters worked together at van Gogh’s yellow house in the South of France.

The Bunch of Flowers
The Bunch of Flowers (1891) – Photo Credit: dalbera

The Manic Artist

Nine weeks of painting turned into a confrontation with a straight razor.  Vincent slipped into madness.  The cold void blanketed his skeleton and red hair follicles.  Paul left.  Vincent detached his own left ear with the blade.  He wrapped the organ in newspaper and handed it to an employee of a brothel.  He was committed to a hospital the next morning.  It was the last time the two friends saw each other in person.  A written correspondence continued until the gunshot.

The world turned.  The curtain of Europe fell over the artist.  He moved to Tahiti to escape in 1891.  His first three months were spent at the capital.  The modernization was a disappointment.  He moved into a bamboo hut.  The change in setting would produce some of his finest work.  The wild elements and austere landscape altered Gauguin’s DNA.  Nine of his best were sent to Paris and exhibited in Copenhagen with Vincent van Gogh.  The reviews were positive.

He returned to France in 1893.  His 1894 gallery showing was lucrative.  The success faded after losing the patronage of the dealer Paul Durand-Ruel.  Paul was unable to secure the funds to return to Tahiti in 1895.  The symbolic artist Eugène Anatole Carrière provided his friend cheap passage.  Gauguin departed Europe in June of 1895.  He never saw the continent again.

Tehamana Has Many Parents
Tehamana Has Many Parents (1893) – Photo Credit: mark6mauno

He flourished in Tahiti for six years.  He moved to a more primitive settlement on the island of Hiva-Oa in 1901.  His health deteriorated a year later.  Leg cramps led to heart palpitations and other ailments.  The pain intensified.  Morphine was used.  The plunge of the syringe turned into a habit.  He switched to the opium tincture Laudanum.  It didn’t work.  The injections stopped.  They returned in 1903.  Paul Gauguin died on May 8, 1903.  He was fifty-four years old.  The cause of death was determined to be syphilis.  Recent forensic dental analysis suggests otherwise.

“Life has no meaning unless one lives it with a will, at least to the limit of one’s will. Virtue, good, evil are nothing but words, unless one takes them apart in order to build something with them; they do not win their true meaning until one knows how to apply them.”

Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin sculpture
Paul Gauguin sculpture – Photo Credit: Martin Beek

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