A famous French artist, Paul Gauguin, was born in Paris on June 7, 1848. Clovis Gauguin’s father was a liberal journalist from a family of petit-bourgeoisie entrepreneurs living in Orleans. His mother, Alina Maria Ghazal, was the daughter of early feminist activist and socialist leader Flora Tristan.
In 1851, Gauguin and his family left Paris and moved to Peru due to political instability in France. His father died on the Voyage, and later they returned to France when he was seven years old. After returning to France, he learned French and excelled in his studies.
At the age of seventeen, Gauguin served the merchant marine as a pilot’s assistant for three years, and later in 1871, he started a job as a stockbroker. It is noteworthy that Gauguin never studied the art of painting from anyone; he was fond of collecting paintings of different artists from childhood. Gauguin used to paint in his spare time after self-learning from his collected paintings.
Summary of Paul Gauguin’s Artistic Work
Paul Gauguin was one of the most remarkable French artists of the Post-Impressionist era. Gauguin was initially trained in Impressionism, but later, he broke away from Impressionism’s preoccupation with the quotidian world to intricate a new and unique painting style referred to as Symbolism. He was the most influential artist in the Symbolist art movement of the early 1900s.
Paul Gauguin’s symbolist art profoundly influenced the many French modern and Avant-garde artists, such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. His experimentation with bold colors led him directly to the synthetist style of modern art.
That’s not all! The bold depiction of his paintings’ exaggerated body proportions and sharp contrasts distinguished him from his contemporaries. Moreover, it helped establish his modus operandi for the Primitivism art movement.
Moreover, Gauguin had an extensive collection of art-related objects like prints, drawings, Tahitian sculptures, photographs, and pottery. Among this collection were the paintings by his friends and colleagues who remained in Europe, including Cézanne, Pissaro, and Claude Monet. He worked in a highly colorful style with the famous Vincent Van Gogh in France one summer before shutting his interest entirely from western society.
Famous Paintings of Paul Gauguin That Exist Today
While Impressionism had played a vital role in Gauguin’s artistic development, most of his artwork was Post-impressionist, which later became part of the Symbolist art movement. Unlike his contemporaries, Gauguin depicted his paintings with bold and symbolic elements.
Out of the numerous paintings he painted, only 516 paintings exist today in different museums throughout the world. Below is the description of some of his most famous paintings to help you learn about Gauguin artist and his famous drawings.
Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897)
One of Gauguin’s most distinctive and famous paintings, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Consists of three groups of humans, animals, and symbolic figures elucidating the questions posed in the title. Measuring 54¾ x 147½ inches, this painting is Gauguin’s largest colossal painting on the canvas.
In this painting, the three women and the baby at the right of the painting depict the beginning of life, the group in the middle reflects the adulthood and everyday routine, and the left and the final scene of the painting show the older woman slowly approaching death. The painting itself explains the entire pictorial and philosophical doctrine painted in it.
Gauguin was in grief and despair when he initiated this painting due to his daughter’s demise earlier that year. It is said that he tried to commit suicide after completing this painting.
When Will You Marry? (1892)
Paul Gauguin created several paintings of native Tahiti women clothed in traditional Tahitian and western dresses. The painting, ”When Will You Marry” is one of its most renowned artworks by Gauguin. His paintings depicting traditional Tahitian women are considered his career’s best paintings.
The painting shows a young woman wearing a traditional Tahitian dress leaning ahead on the ground. She partially obscures another woman sitting behind her, wearing a high-neck western-style dress. It can be deduced from the white flower on one ear of the Tahitian-dressed woman that she is looking for a husband, hence the title.
Paul Gauguin’s ”When Will You Marry?) was sold to Sheikh Tamim Bin Hammad Al-Thani for $210 million in 2014. This painting has now become the world’s 4th most expensive painting.
The Yellow Christ (1889)
Along with Gauguin’s other painting titled “The Green Christ,” this unique painting of Christ by Gauguin is among the first and most significant works of Symbolism in painting. This painting shows a symbolic depiction of Christ’s crucifixion, taking place in 19th-century northern France. Breton women can be seen gathered around in prayer.
This painting shows a detailed composition of Symbolism, like the person running in the background, which depicts the desire of men to run away from city life and go back to the simple primitive life. It is the most renowned painting by Paul Gauguin before his time in Tahiti.
Vision After the Sermon (1888)
The painting, ”Vision After the Sermon” reflects a Biblical event in which Jacob wrestles an Angel. Due to the use of bold and dramatic colors, lines, and shapes, this painting shows the artist’s inspiration from Japanese woodblock prints.
Gauguin beautifully structured the painting by drawing a tree trunk diagonally in its center to make a visual detachment between the women and their vision. The artist tried to portray that the fight and the landscape only exist in women’s imagination, who are gathered around in prayer after the sermon.
The pioneer of the significant Symbolist art movement in France, Paul Gauguin is famous for his bold experimentation with coloring, paintings of Tahiti and Tahitian women, and Symbolistic paintings of nude bathers. He traveled to many places like Martinique, Panama, and most famously, Tahiti to explore the endemic perfection outside European society.
Of the numerous unique and beautiful paintings he created, 516 are available in various museums worldwide.