Eugene Henri Paul Gaugin





Eugene Henri Paul Gaugin

Eugene Henri Paul Gaugin was born in Paris, France, to parents Clovis Gaugin and Aline Chazal. Gaugin was a post-impressionist artist. Post-impressionism is a French art movement that was developed roughly between 1886 and 1905. In some ways, it was a rebellion against impressionism which focused on the naturalistic elements of light and shade. In direct contrast, post-impressionism focused mainly on line color and form. This new technique allowed an artist to bend the rules of composition and create from a more vibrant color scheme. In 1850, his parents left Paris for Peru. His father had hoped to continue his journalistic career by virtue of his wife’s South American relations, but he died of a heart attack.

After attending a couple of local schools, Gaugin attended the prestigious catholic school, Petit Seminaire De La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmini, where he spent three years. At age fourteen, he joined the French Naval Academy. Finally, he signed on as a pilot’s assistant, in the Merchant Marine. In 1871, Gaugin returned to Paris, where he secured a job as a stockbroker. In 1873, he married a Danish woman, Mette-Sophie Gad. Over the next ten years, they had five children. He moved to Copenhagen Denmark with his family, where he pursued a business career as a tarpaulin salesman. After eleven years, his middle-class family and marriage fell apart. He was then driven to paint full time. In 1885 he returned to Paris after his wife and her family asked him to leave after he had renounced their values. The last time he saw his family was in 1891.

Eugene’s friendship with Van Gogh has been an area of interest for many people. Their friendship was fraught with challenges and later turned sour, the cause of which prompted a lot of speculation among different people. The origin of their friendship between after Gaugin’s Martinique paintings were displayed at Arsene Poitier’s gallery. Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo attended the exhibition, and Gaugin’s paintings immediately attracted their attention. Theo van Gogh was an art dealer whose firm Goupil & Cie had done business with Poitier’s gallery before. Theo immediately bought three of Gaugin’s paintings and had them displayed at Goupil’s. This action introduced Gaugin’s work to Theo’s wealthy clients. Through this process, Gaugin and Vincent struck up a friendship. The two artists would collaborate on art projects, and their work together formed the basis of Gaugin’s art philosophy. Theo kept up his arrangement between Goupil’s and Gaugin, and this went on even after Theo died in January of 1891.

Theo seemed to be the glue that held together Vincent and Gaugin’s friendship. One example of this is the nine weeks the two artists spent painting together at Vincent’s house in the South of France in 1888. Theo set up this meeting, hoping to create a better relationship between the two. Despite Theo’s best efforts and intentions, the relationship between Vincent and Gaugin quickly deteriorated, and Gaugin ended up leaving. Later, Gaugin explained the events that had caused his early departure. Gaugin claimed that Vincent van Gogh confronted armed with a razor. Some time later that evening, van Gogh cut off his own ear to Gaugin’s surprise. Vincent then wrapped the severed ear in some newspapers, and gave it to a brothel worker, instructing her to keep it carefully in his memory (Freitag 44). The next day, van Gogh was taken to hospital, and Gaugin departed. The strange event marked the last time the two artists saw each other, though they continued to correspond.

Another point of controversy between van Gogh and Gaugin was the fact that Gaugin claimed to have influenced van Gogh’s development as an artist. In some ways, this statement was true. For a brief period, van Gogh explored Gaugin’s style of painting from the imagination. However, van Gogh found that this style of painting did not suit his art, and he then went back to his practice of paintings inspired by nature. In the year 1889, Gaugin made a sculptural self-painting called the ‘Jug in the form of a Head, Self-Portrait,’ which many believed to represent the troubled relationship between him and van Gogh (Salvesen 23).

The island of Martinique is significant in Gaugin’s life history because it was there that he created his most remarkable works of art. He spent six months on the island in the year 1887, in the company of his friend Charles Laval. Accounts of how Gaugin came to stay on the island vary. When he first arrived, he stayed in a hut, and he found it fascinating to watch the island’s residents go about their daily activities. The hot and wet summers led to Gaugin contracting dysentery and marsh fever. One of Gaugin’s most essential interactions in Martinique was with Indian immigrants, which later influenced his work (Freitag 45). He finished about twelve paintings while on the island.

In 1891, Gaugin visited the island of Tahiti as one of his artistic destinations. Before setting off on the journey, Guaigin visited his family in Copenhagen, and it would be the last time he ever saw them. He explained that one of the reasons for going to Tahiti was to escape the artificial and conventional way of life in Europe. Despite this claim, he still took with him some prints and drawings that would inspire his art. He encountered his first difficulty in the Tahitian capital of Papeete; he could not afford the lifestyle of pleasure he sought. He moved to another town forty-five kilometers away and worked on many paintings. Some of Gaugin’s notable paintings in Tahiti include ‘Suzanne Bambridge’ and ‘Woman with a Flower.’ Gaugin took a thirteen-year-old girl for a wife in the year 1892, and she bore him a child in 1893. Gaugin left the island in July 1893, never to see her or their child again. He went back to Europe but returned to Tahiti in 1895, where he continued his work (Freitag 47). He also began to make ceramics, though a lack of suitable clay became quite a challenge. He took another female partner who bore him two children. He lived in different areas of Tahiti, working on his art despite the many difficulties he faced. He got in debt, and his health began to falter.

In conclusion, Gaugin lived an interesting life both in his art and his personal life. One of the significant areas of controversy is his relationships with underage girls in the island of Tahiti. His complicated relationship with renowned painter Vincent van Gogh is another area of interest for many people. Gaugin chose to settle in the Caribbean island of Martinique, hoping that it would be inspirational for his art. He spent his life moving between Europe and Tahiti. Eventually, he chose Tahiti, where he encountered challenges with the gendarmes of the island. His health began to falter on the island, and he died on the 8th of May, 190. Gaugin is remembered not only for his outstanding art but also for his colorful life.

Works Cited

Freitag, Wolfgang M. “Paul Gauguin: a bio-bibliography, by Russell T. Clement.(Bio-Bibliographies in Art and Architecture, no. 1). New York, Westport; London: Greenwood Press, 1991. xxii, 324p. ISBN 0-313-27394. $47.05.” Art Libraries Journal 18.2 (1993): 44-47.

Salvesen, Britt. Gauguin. Harry N Abrams Incorporated, 2001.