L. Scott Roberts
11 November 2011
Like so many artists one studies, the life of Paul Gauguin was filled with internal struggles on daily matters and beliefs. Gauguin was not dealt an easy life from the very beginning. Born to French journalist and half Peruvian mother, Gauguin came to know the cruelty of life at a very young age. In 1851, he and his family moved to Peru due to the climate of the period. On the voyage to Peru, his father died; leaving him with his mother and sister to survive on their own. The family lived in Peru for four years and during that time, Gauguin came under the influence of certain imagery that would affect the rest of his life. His family then moved back to France where Gauguin excelled in academic studies. He went on to serve two years in the navy and then became a stockbroker. He married a woman by the name of Mette Sophie Gad, and proceeded to have five children. (“Paul Gauguin”).
Gauguin always enjoyed art in its many forms and soon purchased his own studio to show off Impressionist paintings. He moved his family to Copenhagen to continue being a stockbroker, but felt as if he was to pursue the life of an artist full time. He moved back to France to follow his passion for art, leaving his family behind. Just like many artists, he suffered from depression and had several suicide attempts. Gauguin soon became very frustrated with the art of the 1800’s and sailed to the tropics to escape life. He then used what he saw there as inspiration for many of the works that he produced. In 1903, he got in trouble with the government and was sentenced to jail for a short time. At the young age of 54, Gauguin died of syphilis, probably contracted from the natives in Tahiti.
Gauguin left a rather large impact on the world of art. He rubbed shoulders with some of the most world renown French artists. His biography states, “[Gauguin was] the first artist to systematically use these [Primitivism] effects and achieve broad public success” (“Paul Gauguin”). He created some very successful paintings such as “Fragrant Earth,” “Barbaric Tales,” “The Loss of Virginity,” “Yellow Christ,” and “Tahitian Women with Flowers.” All of these paintings have specific Gauguin signatures on them in style, color, subject, and reality.
Gauguin lived in the time of Impressionist art. This art movement was mainly lead by Paris based artists. At first, Gauguin embraced the essence and characteristics of Impressionism. The early works of Gauguin, as John Gould Fletcher tells us in his book, have disappeared. However, there have been descriptions of his early works by Felix Feneon (Fletcher 44). These descriptions prove and show that Gauguin was already miles ahead of Impressionism and would become a very promising and influential leader in the next movement of art. While the art of his time was characterized, by small, visible brush strokes that allowed colors to harmonize and blend together to create different and changing qualities of light of ordinary subject matters, Gauguin put his own interpretation of Impressionism. His tones were very separated from each other, creating a new way at painting landscapes. Fletcher states, “Gauguin was treating landscape at this period already as a synthesis, a decorative whole. . . not as an exercise in the analysis of atmosphere vibration” (Fletcher 45).
People did not appreciate the new beginnings of this Post- Impressionism movement of art lead by Gauguin. This did not stop Gauguin at all. He continued on in finding new theories and creating his own tradition that went against the old decorative tradition. Wright and Dine share, “Gauguin was not content with the landscapes of civilization. He wanted something more elemental – scenes where an unspoilt and untamed nature gave birth to a race of simple and colourful character. He felt the need of...