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Paul Gauguin

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Paul Gauguin biography


Paul (Eugène-Henri) Gauguin (1848–1903)

French painter, born in Paris. He grew up in Orléans, with his father, and in Lima, Peru, with his mother’s family, became a sailor and joined a stockbroking firm in 1871.

He began painting with his friends Pissarro and Cézanne, abandoned the stock market in 1883, sent his wife with their five children to her parents in Denmark and devoted the rest of his life to art. Paris proving too expensive he settled in Brittany (1886).

After a visit to Martinique and an acrimonious association with Van Gogh he went (1891) to the South Seas, first to Tahiti and (1901) to the Marquesas, where he died. Originally influenced by the Impressionists, particularly by his friend Pissarro, he parted from them in 1887, dissociating himself from their techniques of breaking up colour.

He  evolved a decorative style using simplified drawing, and flat, strong, pure and not necessarily naturalistic colouring; outlines, as in cloisonné enamels, were often intensified by black lines. The brilliant colours of Tahiti provided ideal inspiration and he was also influenced by primitive sculpture, as is seen in some of his pictures of serene impassive islanders represented in attitudes of repose.

Gauguin’s paintings were a major influence on later non-representational art. His Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When will you Marry?; 1892), in a private sale, reached $US 300 million, the highest price for any artwork.

Paul Gauguin: A Life

Something you'll notice about the way people who knew Gauguin tend to recall him," wrote a young man in 1929. "They may speak of him with love or loathing: none speaks of him with indifference." In Paul Gauguin: A Life (Simon & Schuster, 600 pp), David Sweetman does not improve upon that description of the irascible artist. But he does do an impressive job of conveying Gauguin's passion, unrelenting self-regard and painterly genius, which have engulfed other biographers. The artist was born in Paris in 1848 and died in the Marquesas Islands in 1903 of syphilis, a month short of his 55th birthday His father, Clovis, a rising journalist, came from a long line of gardeners. His mother's family, far more interesting, were Peruvian aristocrats, some of...

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