Gauguin, Paul

1848-1903
Gauguin, Paul Biography

Gauguin was born in Paris into a liberal middle-class family. After an adventurous early life, including a four-year stay in Peru with his family and a stint in the French merchant marine, he became a successful Parisian stockbroker, settling into a comfortable bourgeois existence with his wife and five children. In 1874, after meeting the artist Camille Pissarro and viewing the first impressionist exhibition, he became a collector and amateur painter. He exhibited with the impressionists in 1876, 1880, 1881, 1882, and 1886. In 1883 he gave up his secure existence to devote himself to painting; his wife and children, without adequate subsistence, were forced to return to her family. From 1886 to 1891 Gauguin lived mainly in rural Brittany where he was the center of a small group of experimental painters known as the school of Pont-Aven.

In 1891, ruined and in debt, Gauguin sailed for the South Seas to escape European civilization and "everything that is artificial and conventional." Except for one visit to France from 1893 to 1895, he remained in the Tropics for the rest of his life, first in Tahiti and later in the Marquesas Islands. The essential characteristics of his style changed little in the South Seas; he retained the qualities of expressive color, denial of perspective, and thick, flat forms. A modest stipend from a Parisian art dealer sustained him until his death at Atuona in the Marquesas on May 9, 1903.

Gauguin's bold experiments in coloring led directly to the 20th-century fauvist style in modern art. His strong modeling influenced the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch and the later expressionist school.

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