Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

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Tahitian Women

Riders on the Beach, 1902

By The Sea

Woman With Flower

Known as one of the fathers of modern art, Paul Gauguin left a legacy for the next generations of artists. He didn’t embrace naturalism, and he actually rejected it in his use of nature only as a backdrop or point of origin from which to display other abstract images. Gauguin turned away from impressionism and adapted the less naturalistic style called synthesism. His fascinating color patterns infused his work with an undercurrent of mystery.

Paul Gauguin was born in 1848. His background did not begin in art. In fact, he was a sailor who went on to become a successful stockbroker in Paris. In 1874, he began to develop an interest for painting. By the time he turned 35, he focused his attention solely on his art. He even went so far as to separate from his wife and children.

Les Alyscamps


From 1879-1886, Gauguin exhibited with the impressionists. He opted to sail off to Panama and Martinique because he felt he was being poisoned by civilization. Unfortunately, he became ill and had to return to France.

In 1888, Gauguin’s style began to evolve. He drew influences from Japanese prints and stained glass. At this time, he began to utilize flat planes and bright color. He paired these with primitive subjects or subjects that were highly symbolic. He sold 30 canvases in 1891 and moved to Tahiti where he painted and wrote an autobiographical novel. When he returned to France a year later, he exhibited his work but still made little money.

The last years of Gauguin’s life were spent in suffering. His paintings became bolder and more powerful. He was poor, dying from syphilis, and suicidal. In fact, he attempted to commit suicide and failed. After the botched suicide attempt, he actually painted for five more years before he died. The bold experiments he did with coloring in his later paintings actually set the stage for fauvism.

The work of Gauguin continues to be popular today. Among his most famous pieces in the United States are such works as The Day of the God and Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

When looking at Gauguin’s art as a complete body of work, there is one similar undercurrent. Gauguin’s desire to free himself from the evils of civilization actually manifests itself subtly in the paintings. There is a sense that each work has an element of trying to break free from civilization. He has impressionistic threads in his body of work, but above all, he is a symbolist. His creations suggest a reality far removed from civilization.

Christ in the Garden of Olives

Portrait of Alice, Gauguin’s daughter

Still Life With Mandolin

Deux Tetes

Along with his paintings, Gauguin also left behind some impressive lithographs as well as a number of pottery pieces.

Gaugin Discovery

Copenhagen. A bust by French artist Paul Gauguin of one of his sons has been discovered in Denmark where a family had unwittingly been using it as a Christmas decoration, a museum said yesterday.

The work of art will be added to a large Gauguin exhibition set to open at the Ordrupsgaard museum near Copenhagen this week.

“I inherited this bust from my grandparents and I never thought it was authentic, even though Gauguin’s name was inscribed on it,” the former owner of the bust, Bent Avnsoe, told AFP.

Suspicions that it might be an original Gauguin were first raised about five years ago, when Avnsoe took the bust to an insurance agent for appraisal following a break-in at his home.

“The insurance agent gawped at it and sent the child bust in for authentication at a Danish auction house and then to a conservationist and Gauguin specialist at the Ordrupgaard museum, Anne-Birgitte Fonsmark, who bought it for US$34,000,” he explained.

Still wondering about a painting in your family collection? Contact us…it could be by Paul Gauguin.