Paul Gauguin is widely known for having lived with van Gogh. However, not much is known about how he lived his life as a single painter.
What kind of works did Gauguin paint, and how did he come to be recognized by the public as a talented painter? Let us unravel this enigmatic painter Paul Gauguin.
25 Years without having Anything to do with Painting
He was born in Paris in 1848 to a republican journalist father, Clovis, and mother, Aline Marie Chazal.
However, soon after his birth, his father lost his job and the family left Paris for Peru. During that journey, his father died, and he lived from place to place, relying on his acquaintances.
When he was 7 years old, he began living in France again, relying on his grandfather. Gauguin, who had been raised in Spanish from an early age, did not begin learning his native language, French, until this age.
After attending several local schools, Gauguin enrolled in a Catholic boarding school, Petit Séminaire de La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin, where he stayed for three years.
When he was 20, he enlisted in the French Navy and served for two years, returning to Paris at the age of 23 to take a job as a stockbroker on the Paris Stock Exchange. Over the next 11 years, he became a successful businessman. As a stockbroker, he also earned a lot of money from trading in paintings.
It is surprising that at that time he was a buyer, not a painter.
Beginnings of the Painter Gauguin
In 1873, Gauguin married a Danish woman, Mette-Sophie Gad. From that time on, Gauguin began to paint in his spare time.
He met Camille Pissarro at a cafe near his house where Impressionist painters gathered, and on Sundays they would visit Pissarro's house and paint together. Thanks to Pissarro, Gauguin was able to get to know various painters and became skilled enough to be selected for the Salon.
The following "Portrait of Madame Gauguin" is said to have been painted at that time. It is said to be the only painting in which Gauguin painted his wife.
In 1882, the Paris stock market crashed and Gauguin's main business was severely damaged and his income plummeted. Gradually, Gauguin began to think about making painting his main business.
His decision to live by painting is said to be written in a letter he sent to friends such as Pissarro.
He moved to a town called Rouen, where the cost of living was as low as possible. However, reality was not so easy, and he was impoverished and forced to do miscellaneous hired work. He then had to return to Paris.
Even in Paris, life remained harsh, and it is said that the only painting he painted in the year after his return to Paris was "Women Bathing," shown below.
Pont-Aven, the Turning Point in His Life as a Painter
Gauguin began living in a community of painters in Pont-Aven in Brittany in 1886. At first, it was because of the low cost of living, but his interactions with the young art students here proved to be a major turning point.
Here, he imitated the methods of Edgar Gonnet and others and produced many paintings of landscapes in which figures are represented, such as "The Breton Shepherdess" below.
Gauguin continued to visit Pont-Aven frequently.
The paintings he made there were characterized by a bold use of pure colors and a choice of symbolic subjects, and later came to be known as the Pont-Aven School.
Encounters with Indian Immigrants
Gauguin went bankrupt during his visit to Panama. In accordance with French law at the time, he was to return to his home country at the expense of his country, but he got off the ship in the port of Saint Pierre in Martinique. It is said that he stayed on the island of Martinique for the next six months.
Researchers are divided as to whether this disembarkation was planned or spontaneous.
It is also said that he traveled around the island and visited Indian immigrant villages, and Gauguin's later works incorporate Indian motifs.
The following is a work entitled "Huts under the Trees" painted on the island of Martinique.
Van Gogh, with whom Gauguin would later live together, was impressed by this work painted on Martinique. It is said that Van Gogh's brother, Theo, purchased Gauguin's work, displayed it in an exhibition, and invited many people to see it. Gauguin also became close to Van Gogh and continued to communicate with him by letter.
Beginning of Living Together with Van Gogh
Van Gogh was attracted to Gauguin's work and offered to work with him. As a result of Van Gogh's approach, they began living together in 1888 at the Yellow House, where Van Gogh was living at the time.
The following is Van Gogh's painting of "The Yellow House" where he and Gauguin lived together.
Continue to read further story of Paul Gauguin on Part 2.
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