Biography of Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

Painter, sculptor, Carver, Potter and French writer born on June 7, 1848 in Paris and died on May 8, 1903 in Atuana, on the island of Hiva Oa (Marquesas Islands). His full name was Eugene-Henri-Paul Gauguin. He/She was the son of the liberal journalist Clovis Gauguin and Aline Marie Chazal (also daughter of the writer and militant Socialist Flora Tristan), and father of the painters Jean and Pola Gauguin.

Self-portrait in front of an easel (oil on canvas, 1884-1885). Private collection.

In his artistic beginnings Gauguin was strongly influenced by the Impressionists, especially by the style of painting of Camille Pissarro; However, he/she soon developed a concept contrary to Impressionism and very similar to the attempts of Cezanne and Van Gogh, which consisted of highlighting the importance of expressive and symbolic value of surfaces, contours and bright colors.

Proposed as artistic movement opposed to the synthetic symbolism Impressionism, convinced that the painting was closely related with music and that similar rules and structures could be in the composition of the color.

Some of his works have inspired in pictures of Emile Bernard, Puvis de Chavannes and, above all, the Japanese woodcuts that adopts the violent contrast of large areas of strong colors, the accentuation of the line and the intentional lack of relationship between foreground and background.

Their artistic proposals were retaken by the Nabis and the Fauves (see Fauvism) and later by Wassily Kandinsky, Adolf Hoelzel, Expressionism and abstract art. His works in wood left mark on the German painters of the group Die Brücke, in work so early and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec in the Norwegian Edward Munch, not to mention representatives of the applied arts, such as Henry Van de Velde, Emile Gallé, Otto Eckmann and German modernism (Jugendstil; see modernism).

Its production reaches several hundreds of paintings and other artistic expressions.


Pilgrimage that kept Paul Gauguin throughout his life, marked by the death of their parents, children, women and friends, as well as disease and poverty, began already at the remote age of one year, when in 1849 (with the coming to power of Luis Napoléon Bonaparte, with the revolution of February 1848) his father Clovis decided to leave France with his family to Peruwhere he/she died on 30 October by an aneurysm when they crossed the Strait of Magellan.

The family continued the journey and lived between 1852 and 1855 with relatives of Spanish in Lima offspring, until in 1855 he/she returned to France, where settled in Orleans and where the young Paul studied at the Petit-Séminaire from 1859.

In 1865 he/she entered as apprentice pilot of the merchant ship Luzzitano, of the company Union des Chargeurs, and Le Havre, travelled to Rio de Janeiro. The following year he/she embarked on the merchant ship Chili, because as a second pilot, for a journey that took him around the world. Once the service done military, also in the Navy, enlisted in 1868 in Le Havre to participate, on Board of the Jerome Napoleon, the Franco-Prussian War.

In 1871 he/she resided in Paris, where he/she began, through Gustave Arosa, to work as a stockbroker for the Agency of change Bertin, where he/she met Émile Schuffenecker, also actor and painter, who would support him in many occasions. On November 22 of the same year he/she married the Danish Mette Sophie Gad, and from 1874, date of the first exhibition of the Impressionists, may be related to him the Colarossi Academy and the painter Camille Pissarro.

One of his first jobs as a painter was the realization of a head boy, his eldest son Emile Gauguin, in 1875 (whereabouts unknown, was owned by the widow of Gauguin until it was confiscated by the nazis). Already in 1871 data landscape painting trees and houses on the banks of the Seine in 1871 (Copenhagen, Dessau), although surprisingly Gauguin did not create another landscape work until in 1876 participate for the first time in the official Salon de Paris with one of the landscapes made in 1875: the Seine with the bridge of Jena (Paris, Musée du Louvre). The same year is the Seine between the Jena bridge and the bridge of Grenelle (factories Cail, whereabouts unknown), and 1876 flowers in a Blue Vase (New York, Annan) wild.

In 1879 he/she painted with Pissarro at Pontoise, at the same time that began collecting paintings by the Impressionists, including Renoir, Monet and Cézanne, Guillaumin, and in 1880 he/she exhibited seven paintings (landscapes) and a sculpture in the fifth exhibition of the Impressionists. The paintings until 1880 include portraits of Claude-Antoine-Charles Favre (1877) and his wife Mette Gauguin sewing (1878; both in private collections), and the basin of Vaugirard landscape with trees and houses (1879; US, Northampton, Smith College Museum of Art).

In 1881 he/she exhibited eight paintings (landscapes of Vaugirard), a polychrome sculpture and a Medallion in the sixth exhibition of the Impressionists, and received a very positive review of Huysmans by his nude of a woman sewing (Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek), painted in 1880. 1881 are also room in the artist's home (Oslo, Nasjonalgalleriet) and flowers in a vase with a window (Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts). In 1882 he/she participated at the seventh exhibition of the Impressionists.

With the collapse of the stock market left the Agency Bertin in 1883 to engage, as well as Emile Schuffenecker, fully artistic production, trying to keep up with the sale of pictures.

In 1884 he/she moved first to Rouen, where he/she painted blue roofs of Rouen (Winterthur, Reinhart), and then to Copenhagen, although he/she returned in 1885 to Paris, where he/she stayed for lack of means the Schuffenecker family. In 1886 participated, with eighteen paintings, at the 8th Exhibition of the Impressionists, and became acquainted with the ceramist Champlet, who gave him lessons. He/She worked temporarily from Professor Académie Vitti, and in June of that same year went first to Pont-Aven in Brittany, where he/she met Emile Bernard, before returning to Paris and lock friendship with Vincent Van Gogh. From this period are self-portrait with palette (1885; Berne, Koefer), the beach at Dieppe (1885; Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek), the still life with profile of Laval (1886; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts) and swimmers (1887, Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes).

Together with the painter Charles Laval (portrayed anecdotally in the still life of Boston), also sailed to Panama in 1887. When he/she came to America, without resources, he/she worked as a Digger in the construction of the canal, to arrive later to Martinique, where he/she made landscapes as he/she kept at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. In November of the same year he/she returned to Paris, where was welcomed back into House of Schuffenecker.

The following year he/she moved again to Pont-Aven, where met again with Bernard. It was at this time when devised synthetic symbolism as an answer to Impressionism. From this period are Breton women in the garden (1888, private collection), breton landscape with swine (1888, Los Angeles, Norton Simon Art Foundation), still life with three puppies (1888, New York, Museum of Modern Art) and Vision after the sermon, Jacob wrestling with the angel (1888, Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland). This last painting is a key work in the pictorial corpus of almost five hundred oil paintings by Gauguin, here manifest programmatically characteristics of synthetic symbolism through the surfaces of bright colors and lines marked. Gauguin painted this picture having seen earlier Breton women on the meadow of Émile Bernard, which led him to this to suggest that Gauguin is not only oriented in his theory of colours, but that had even copied elements of what Bernard considered his key work. In fact, Vision after the sermon, Jacob wrestling with the angel means the overcoming of Impressionism through the accentuation of large areas of color, the lines of very pointed outline and the employment of new colors, as in this case the Prussian blue and red background.

Breton women in the garden (oil on canvas, 1888). Private collection.

Vision after the sermon, Jacob wrestling with the Ángel (oil on canvas, 1888). National Gallery of Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland).

Your picture is explained in a letter to Van Gogh, Gauguin and his painting in the following way: "I think have reached a great rustic and superstitious simplicity in figures. All very severe. For me in this box, both the landscape and the struggle there than in the imagination of people who are in prayer, after the sermon. "Thus there are contrasts between natural persons and combating [...] not natural and disproportionate" (quoted by: G. M. Sugana, the complete works of Gauguin, Noguer, 1973, p. 91). And in a letter to Schuffenecker explains his new style innovation: "I have sacrificed everything, execution and color, per style, because I wanted to impose me something different from what I know do. "I think it's a transformation that has not yet given its fruits, but will give them" (quoted by: G. M. Sugana, the complete works of Gauguin, Noguer, 1973, p. 91). But, apart from the influence received from Bernard and the easily recognizable staging in a breton environment, there are elements in this picture which strongly testify to the desire for innovation of Gauguin and his lack of concern when looking for inspiration. Says his former master Camilla Pissarro of this picture: "not accuse Gauguin have put a bottom vermilion, or warriors fighting and Breton peasants in the foreground, blame you have stolen all this from the Japanese, the Byzantine painters and others;" blame you have not applied their synthesis to our modern philosophy which is quite social, anti-authoritarian and antimistica"(quoted by: G. M. Sugana, the complete works of Gauguin, Noguer, 1973, p. 91).

Although the picture was rejected flatly by the parish priest of Nizon that Gauguin had painted it, criticism in Paris and Brussels celebrated him as a key work of a new style and Gauguin as its inventor and "visionary sublime, great decorator and great artist".

With the help of Theo Van Gogh, brother of Vincent, was held the first solo exhibition of Gauguin in Boussod, Valadon. On October 22, 1888 Gauguin met Van Gogh in Arles and painted Cafe in Arles (Moscow, Pushkin State Museum of fine arts), showing a series of characters previously portrayed now by Van Gogh and the landscape the Alder of Arles (Paris, Musee de Orsay). The stay is interrupted abruptly on December 25, when Van Gogh suffers an attack of madness and attacking Gauguin with a razor; This left to his teammate, who cut an ear when Gauguin was still in Arles.

Gauguin rented a Studio in Paris, in 1889 although it returned in April of that same year to Pont-Aven. He/She joined Laval, Fauche, Schuffenecker, Anquetin, Monfreid, Bernard and Roy with 17 landscapes of Martinique, Brittany and Arles (15 canvases, a watercolor and a cake) in the exhibition of painting of the Groupe impressioniste et synthetiste of the world exhibition in Paris. In the same exhibition Bernard showed 23 landscapes of La Brittany and Paris, and jointly presented an album of lithographs.

This year artists from Pont-Aven group moved to the neighbouring village of Le Pouldu, where Gauguin made a ceiling painting. There were the major works of synthetic symbolism: agony in the garden (West Palm Beach, Norton Gallery), Yellow Christ Albright Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo), Calvary (Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts), Gethsemane (West Palm Beach, Norton Gallery) and Belle Angèle (Paris, Musée du Louvre). In addition, he/she has two reliefs in polychrome wood.

At the end of 1889 he/she returned again to Paris to Schuffenecker House, and from 1890, year where he/she committed suicide in Auvers-sur-Oise Van Gogh, worked in the workshop of the painter Daniel de Monfreid, who was a very faithful friend to beyond his own death, since he/she organized the first retrospective exhibition of Gauguin with 227 pictures, already in 1906. It was around this time when Gauguin became friends with Charles Morice and Albert Aurier, and when painted Loulou (1890; Merino, Barnes Foundation) to the family Le Ray.

M. Loulou (oil on canvas, 1890). Foundation (Merion, PA, United States) Barnes.

Encouraged by reports of Tahiti gave him the wife of Odile Redon, native to the islands of Réunion, organized from 16 to 18 February 1891 thirty of his paintings auction at Hôtel Drouot to be able to make this trip. He/She met 9,860 francs of income and on 4 April embarked at Marseille heading to Tahiti in very good condition, thanks also to a cultural mission that had entrusted the Ministry of public instruction and fine arts by Ary Renan intervention. He/She did stop in Melbourne and Sydney and arrived on 8 June in Papeete in Tahiti to move a few months later to Pacca, about twenty kilometers to the West. The same year date from the copy of the Olimpia of Manet (Bergh, Oslo) and the engraving of the portrait of rye I.

Stay in Tahiti lasted until 1893, and his experiences are reflected in her autobiographical novel, Noa Noa, written in 1893 in collaboration with Charles Morice. He/She painted the self-portrait with Idol (1893; San Antonio, McNay Art Institute), conversation (1891; The Parau Parau, St Petersburg, Hermitage Museum), Ia Orana Maria (1891; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art), Tahitian Women on the beach (1891; Paris, Musée d´Orsay), Arearea (1892, Paris, Musée d´Orsay), Nafea Fanipoipo (1892; when you casarás?, Basel, Rudolph Staechelin Foundation), the spirit of death looking (1892; Buffalo, Allbright-Knox-Art Gallery, Matamua (1892; Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza), what! Are you jealous? (Aha oe Feii, 1892;) Moscow, Pushkin State Museum of fine arts), the ancestors of Tehemana (1893; Chicago, McCormick) and Tahitian pastoral scene (1893; Saint Petersburg, Hermitage Museum).

Flowers of Tahiti. Gauguin

In December 1892 he/she commanded eight pictures to Copenhagen, hoping that they sold. Sick and without media since March 1892, he/she had asked the Ministry to facilitate her return to France, request that agreed the mentioned paying for the trip, which began on 14 June and ended on August 3, 1893 in Marseilles. With the money from his friends Sérusier and Monfreid rented a workshop in Paris and, after the death of an uncle in Orleans, which left 9,000 francs (13,000 according to Thieme-Becker, Vol. 13, Leipzig, Seemann, 1920), rented another workshop in which coexisted with the Javanese Anna Martín. He/She painted dreams (ship ship moa, 1894;) Petersburgo, Hermitage Museum), of a religious nature with allusions to the juvenile life of the Virgin Maria. Degas gave him the exposure of forty-four paintings made in Tahiti at the Durand-Ruel Gallery, of which eleven were sold.

Arearea (oil on canvas, 1892). Musée d'Orsay (Paris).

In January 1894 he/she was in Belgium and then for the last time, in Pont-Aven, where he/she painted Breton peasants (Musée d'Orsay, Paris). On May 24 of that year broke his ankle in a fight with some sailors who had made a mockery of Anna Martín in Concarneau. While Gauguin was still recovering in the Hospital, he/she returned to Paris, where he/she sacked the study and disappeared forever. On August 23 the Court which dealt with the trial against the sailors decided that offenders had to pay to Gauguin compensation of 600 francs, although they were never delivered. Partially recovered, he/she returned to Paris to prepare, for the February 18, 1895, its second auction in the Hôtel Drouot, with 45 paintings and drawings 25. The auction, whose corresponding Catalog had a preface by August Strindberg, turned out to be a failure, since benefits collected only came to cover expenses.

On 3 July of that same year he/she embarked again in Marseille, heading to Papeete, where he/she arrived after stops in Sydney and Auckland, September 8. He/She then moved to Punaaiuia, where he/she was to build a wooden house. In France, his State of health was very precarious; syphilis and the problems with his legs worsened on his new journey to the point that made him enter the hospital between July and August 1896. The director of fine arts of Paris refused to keep the promise made by the Ministry in 1891 concerning the acquisition of some paintings of Tahitian theme, and was limited to send 200 francs, which were submitted by Gauguin. In 1897 he/she learned of the death of her daughter Aline and never painted (Courtald Institute Galleries London) and his own opinion is his masterpiece, where do we come from? what are we? where are going? (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts)

Never again (oil on canvas, 1897). Courtland Institute Galleries (London, England).

On February 11, 1898, Gauguin tried to commit suicide. Once this episode his health improved, and worked as a clerk in the office of land registry. Letters to Monfreid report about his life in recent years, marked by shortages and disease. In 1899 made the white horse (Paris Museum of Louvre), maternity (Petersburgo, Hermitage Museum), picking fruit (Ruperupe, Petersburgo, Hermitage Museum), Tahitian women with child (Pasadena, Norton Simon Art Foundation) Tahitian women with cocoons mango (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art), the month of Mary (Te Avae No Maria, Petersburgo, Hermitage Museum) and sunflowers (Petersburgo(, Hermitage Museum).

Gauguin, to ultimately felt bitter because not deemed him more than Bernard; In addition, it had made some statements in manifesting their own art and the Van Gogh had had a strong impact on the own Gauguin.

In December 1898 he/she commanded nine pictures Vollard; with its sale got enough money to be able to return to his wooden house, which was decorated with works of carving.

With the death of his son Clovis and a new entry in the hospital suffered another crisis in 1900, which also gives implicit testimony to the fact that there is no his work with this year. Already starting from 1889 it had collaborated with the magazine Les Guepes, which published several articles and cartoons in favor of improving the situation of the Tahitians and abuses of the Administration and of the local gendarmerie. Test their permanent fight for the cause of the indigenous is the fact that was several times arrested for lack of respect to the authorities. Between August 1889 and autumn of 1901 published in the satirical magazine Sourire, activity that left to move to the Marquesas Islands, where it was made to build a new wooden house on poles in Atuana, on the island of Hiva Oa, according to their own plans and decorating it himself with various works.

In 1902 decided to return to France, although Monfreid advised her in a letter that he/she would not come again so the myth that its figure had become would not break with his return, so it changed his mind. In 1903, there were several complaints against local authorities in which it was involved, although their State of health worsened and, on May 8, at 11 in the morning, was found dead in his own home.

[In December 2004 work maternity II reached the record in an auction of a painting by the artist, to be sold for 30.7 million euros at Sotheby's, New York room].


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Links to the Internet; Some works of the artist.; Web of the Gauguin Museum.