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Paul Gauguin - Post-Impressionist Painter

Updated on August 23, 2009

Artist Paul Gauguin was born on June 7, 1848 in Paris, France. His family lived in Peru from 1851-1855 before moving back to France. When he was 17, Gauguin worked as a pilot’s assistant in the Merchant Marine; he joined the navy in 1868. After leaving the navy in 1871, Gauguin found work as a stockbroker. In 1873, he married Mette Sophie Gad; they had 5 children.

Paul Gauguin received no formal art training. Starting in 1881, he started showing his paintings in Impressionist exhibitions and became friends with Camille Pissarro and Paul Cezanne. Gauguin was influenced by Asian and African art and became a leader of the post-Impressionist movement.

Self portrait 1893
Self portrait 1893

In 1885, after having being abandoned by her husband again, his wife and their children moved back with her family in Denmark.

In 1888, Gauguin lived in Arles, France with his friend Vincent Van Gogh. A new book by Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans makes the claim that it was Gauguin who cut off Van Gogh’s ear lobe in 1888 and not the artist himself. By 1891, Gauguin had left his family and France behind and moved to Tahiti. He returned to France only briefly. Gauguin kept journals of his life in Polynesia and wrote a book about his life in Tahiti called Noa Noa on one of those visits back to France. Some of his most famous paintings are ones he did while living in the South Seas.

Paul Gauguin died on May 8, 1903 in French Polynesia just before he was to start serving a 3-month prison sentence for slander. He died of syphilis.

Self-portrait 1889

Quotes Attributed to Paul Gauguin

Many excellent cooks are spoilt by going into the arts

We never really know what stupidity is until we have experimented on ourselves.

Stressing output is the key to improving productivity, while looking to increase activity can result in just the opposite.

There is always a heavy demand for fresh mediocrity. In every generation the least cultivated taste has the largest appetite

Civilization is what makes you sick.

I have always wanted a mistress who was fat, and I have never found one. To make a fool of me, they are always pregnant.

In art, all who have done something other than their predecessors have merited the epithet of revolutionary; and it is they alone who are masters.

It is the eye of ignorance that assigns a fixed and unchangeable color to every object; beware of this stumbling block.

Les Alyscamps 1888

Night Café at Arles, (Mme Ginoux) 1888

Still-Life with Japanese Woodcut 1889

The Yellow Christ (Le Christ jaune) 1889

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? 1897


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    ralwus 8 years ago

    I almost like his art as much as Vincent's. I believe he did cut off that ear. They discovered a letter written by Vincent to Theo talking of it. Great choice UW. Love it.

  • mega1 profile image

    mega1 8 years ago

    reading about Gauguin now - loved seeing a couple of the paintings referenced in the book. He had to paint! Was unafraid to show all the influences from other painters - its like a trip through the time looking at his work. You could go on writing about artists forever. New ones, too.

  • Uninvited Writer profile image

    Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Thanks. I'm really enjoying it. I feel so much better after looking at all these great works of art. I feel like I could go on writing about artists forever :)

  • Everyday Miracles profile image

    Becki Rizzuti 8 years ago from Indiana, USA

    These are really great! I'm loving this series of hubs!

  • khadilkarprakash profile image

    khadilkarprakash 8 years ago from India

    His quotes are better than his paintings.

  • Teresa McGurk profile image

    Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

    Gawd I do love Gauguin's sensuality. Something about all the reds.