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Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) Essay

Paul Gauguin was a French painter and at the same time a sculptor, who used to look for exotic environments for his work. He could go as far as France and Tahiti to look for this kind of environment. Mostly, he used objects and people in his art work especially the painting one, bringing out a mysterious world into the mind (Gates and Galls, 2010). He always wanted to express spirituality and states of emotion in his work. He has been associated with post-impressionist, symbolist and synthetist periods of art (A&E Television Networks, 2010).

This essay seeks to explore the life of this artist right from his childhood to his work and how he has influenced the modern art. His family back ground His family had a history of violence, especially the sexual one, and a lot of cruelty. It may be said that he could have inherited some of these character traits which had so much impact in his life. He had so many Peruvian characteristics and it was estimated that he was 1/8 Peruvian. The great grandfather, Don Mariano de Tristan Moscoso, belonged to an old Spanish family as a scion and they lived in Lima from 1600s (Mathews, 2001).

He later married a woman who had a French descent called Ann-Pierre Laisnay and they had two children. Don did not live for long because he met pre mature death in the year 1807. Their daughter and Gauguin’s grand mother, Flora Celestine, became of age and brought up her own daughter, Aline, who later became Gauguin’s mother. However, Gauguin always claimed to be coming from the Incas bloodline but this cannot be substantiated (Mathews, 2001). It does not matter whether he was an Inca or not but one thing for sure is that, his Peruvian descent had so much effect on his artwork.

Since his grand father was an artist, he really shaped the views of Gauguin in respect to art and this drew him closer to the career. His personality traits are said to have come from his artistic grand father. His grandparents had so many problems in their marriage which culminated in a divorce after only four years of marriage (Mathews, 2001). They fought for the custody of the children but the grandfather succeeded in taking two children only including Gauguin’s mother, ending up abusing her sexually.

The grandmother took back her children but the hostility never subsided between them and at the end, the grandfather shot the grand mother. She survived but the former was sentenced to life imprisonment. This nature of violence in Gauguin’s family also shaped his marital status in future. This did not mean he tried to kill his wife but he often abused her with so much hostility. It is quite unfortunate that, just like his grandfather, he was so much attracted to young girls and the probability of him being attracted to his own daughter was high (Mathews, 2001).

His childhood life He was born on June 7 in the year 1848, in Paris, France. His father was a journalist coming from Orleans and a Spanish Mum of Peruvian descent. After Louis Napoleon’s victory, his parents decided to sail to go to Lima, Peru and at this time he was only three years old but unfortunately, the father died during this trip. The two, that is Paul and his mother, continued to stay in Lima for the next four years. As young as he was, he had no problems because he led a comfortable life but later he went back to New Orleans (A&E television networks, 2010).

Here, he did not stay for long for he found his way to Paris. He got a chance to go to school and thus he joined a seminary for religious studies. When he clocked the age of seventeen, he decided to join other workers on ships involved in commercial activities. In 1867, his mother past away, leaving him under the guardianship of Gustave Arosa. This is the man who introduced Paul to stock broking as a career. Rosa was so significant to his artistic life in that, he is the one who aroused the interest of art in him (A&E television networks, 2010).

When Gauguin recounted his memories of his childhood especially between the ages 6-17, the stories on Lima were more colorful. He was always frustrating teachers with his indifference and he always made remarks that did not go down well with them. For him, he was a typical French student and no one could tell of his inclination to art for he never showed any potential of becoming one of the greatest artists who ever lived (Mathews, 2001). Around 1870, Paul became a stock broker, a career which lasted for 12 years.

He later married a lady; Mette Sophia Gad, who was Danish and he seemed comfortable with his middle class life (Gates and Galls, 2010). How did he begin his artistic work? Arosa had so many collections of art from famous artists for example, Camille Corot, and from one of the stock brokers who was also an artist. The latter was called Emile Schuffenecker with whom Gauguin started to paint with. Gauguin began getting instructions concerning art and he mostly frequented the studio where he was able to draw using a model.

In the year 1876, his painting, called Landscape at Viroflay was recognized in an annual exhibition which took place in France. He started to develop an interest in an impressionist movement called avant-garde movement and around the year 1881, he had come up with his personal painting collection (A&E Television Networks, 2010). Gauguin always loved painting and for him, it was a hobby. In the year 1875, he found Pissaro, an artist also and since he was older, Gauguin decided to work under him. At this time, he was trying to get acquainted to the painting and drawing techniques.

So far, his struggles paid, for in the year1880, his paintings found their way into the fifth exhibition of the impressionist movement and the same happened in the subsequent years of 1881 and 1882. Most of his holidays, he used to paint with his mentors; Pissaro and Cezanne and from this point, little progress could be observed (A &E Television Networks, 2010). The impressionist movement is mainly concerned with paying attention to the impression produced generally in a piece of work . They used mostly the primary colors in their work and these colors were not to be mixed. They also emphasized on the use of small strokes in painting.

When he clocked the age of 35, this was in the year 1883, he made up his mind to leave the business world and focus on his painting career. When this happened, his wife decided to leave with Gauguin’s five children to go to stay with her parents in Denmark, Copenhagen. However, he decided to go after her but he only managed to return with their eldest son, Clovis. After all these happened, he could support himself and the son by pasting adverts on walls (Gates and Galls, 2010). Around 1886, the son was admitted in a school which was a boarding one and Gauguin managed to stay in the Pont –Aven village for only a few months.

This village was found in the North West of France. Later, he arrived on the Martinique Island to work as a laborer. In 1888, he went back to the village and here, he managed to bring together a group of artists (Gates and Galls, 2010). He started to teach about a particular style of art called synthetics. This style entails using patterns of pure colors on flat surfaces with expressive outlines. Some characteristics in the village used to attract painters so much. For example, the people there used to lead simple lives and had strong religious faith.

For the artists, these manifested a quality of truth found in the human nature which could not be found in Paris because of its sophistication (Gates and Galls, 2010). Later, Vincent Van Gogh had a heart to call Gauguin so that they could always be together at Arles but since the latter was so proud, arrogant, and full of sarcasm and to some extent sophisticated, he could not cope with the former because Vincent was somehow laid back and who desperately needed a human figure as a companion. At the end of the day, both of them could not tolerate each other and thus they had to part.

They could not part well and as a result, Vincent ended up threatening Gauguin using a razor and the latter could not take the threats and he quickly vacated to Paris. While there, he continued with his bohemian life style upto1891 when his life in France came to an end (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2006). Before all these, his style had improved so much to the point of developing what then came to be known as his trade mark style. This entailed using bold colors that were unrealistic on flat areas which were large with mystic subjects. The yellow Christ is a painting that is typical of this style.

It can also be seen in this style that there is a Japanese influence of two- dimensional art which was mostly identified with the Japanese (Wanczura, 2009) Pre-Tahitian paintings Two of the masterpieces of this period are called Vision after the sermon and The yellow Christ which he painted in the year 1889. He used Peasants of Brittany as strong features in the paintings. In both paintings, he has used colors which are bright and flat silhouettes from shapes that were simplified. Another style that emerges in both paintings is his use of symbolisms where one thing is used to signify another (Gates and Galls, 2010).

In the painting, vision after the sermon, it can be observed that, there are some Briton women who are looking at a fight between Jacob and a stranger who later appears to be an angel. This story is found in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Here, Gauguin is talking about faith. He said that, their faith made it possible for them to see clearly; miraculous events which took place in the past, in a way as if they were taking place at that time. The painting; The yellow Christ, was characterized by a yellow statue that was made of wood and this he borrowed from a church just close to the village of Pont-Aven.

He tries to show through the painting that the Breton women were actually at the scene of crucifixion (Gates and Galls, 2010). Life in Tahiti In the year 1891, he was at a position to sell 30 of his paintings and one of his clients was called Edgar Degas. The money that he got enabled him to leave for Tahiti (Wanczura, 2009). The first time Paul arrived in Tahiti, he decided not to stay inside the capital which went by the name Papeete. This capital was inhabited by Europeans who resided with the natives. Gauguin married a girl who was a native in the place and they had one son.

Since he was still poor, he decided to go back to France in 1893 only to find that, an uncle of his had left a small fortune for him. While in Paris, he was always accompanied by a girl who went by the name Annah. She was a Javanese. One day Annah, decided to run away but not empty handed. She carried with her some things from the studio and this was a blow to Gauguin. In November the same year, the artist tried to hold an exhibition in Tahiti but it was not to his expectation due to some financial constraints. In the following year, he decided to go to Denmark and later to Brittany (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2006).

In the year 1895, an auction was held of his paintings much to his dismay. He made up his mind to go back to Tahiti the same spring and settle once more among the natives but this time, he started deteriorating health wise. While in Brittany, he had broken an ankle but even after going to Tahiti, it did not heal well. This was coupled with syphilis infection and stroke. Problems did not end there. He also had problems with the authority because he found himself flouting rules all the time but despite of this, he continued to rely on them for manual jobs (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2006).

His financial situation was going from bad to worse pushing him to try to commit suicide in 1897 though he did not succeed (Wanczura, 2009) While still in Tahiti, he decided to give a friend a word of knowledge that he should choose the Persian, a little of Egyptian and some Cambodians styles in his art and to verily avoid the Greek. He however achieved so much when he made up his mind to leave the culture of the West (Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2006). His art appeared to be running away from Western civilization and in search of a new life which was primitive and more sincere.

His choice of leaving the world of the middle class, leaving behind his jobs, wife and children, not allowing glory and gain to come that easily, were some of the positive characteristics of his personality (Pioch, 2002). Tahitian paintings These paintings were characterized by beauty and lushness of the Tahitian environment but they did not reflect the exact Tahitian life. The persons and the objects which were used were taken out and placed in a setting which was not the normal one.

One of the Tahitian paintings called La Orana Maria was about a woman in Tahiti in the company of her young son and two other women posed just near them, depicting the picture of Mary the mother of Jesus, with the son, that is Christ and some angels attending them while worshipping. Other paintings during this time are the ones that read, where do we come from? Where are we going? And what are we? All these he painted in the year1898. Gauguin used natives in the paintings being portrayed in meditative poses (Gates and Galls, 2010). Another such Tahitian painting is the one of two women on the beach.

This reflected his like for the primitive life. The use of flat forms and colors which were some how violent reflected untamed nature in his primitive art; he later moved them into canvas (Pioch, 2002). For Gauguin’s paints, they somehow reflected the 20th century style of modernism such that, he used juxtapositions and anachronisms. His style ,life and art work were instrumental in shaping the world of art and it made people to have positive attitude towards objects of primitive art and be accepted especially by expressionists from German and the artists in the 1900s (Encyclopedia of world Biography, 2006).

He is regarded as one of the most high-ranking artists in the world and the modern art owes so much to him. He used to pay so much attention to line and color which did magic in his work. His style of mixing both objects and human beings in his work at the same was unusual thing and this can be said that it inspired surrealist movement where they emphasized the use of fantastic imagery. This movement was active in the years 1920s and above (Gates & Galls, 2010). During his life time, he found out that woodcuts can be used as printmaking technique.

He really wanted to release a book called Noa Noa which talked about his life and experience in Tahiti; unfortunately, he could not publish it. This did not deter him, for he went ahead to make woodcuts, ten color ones for that matter, for illustrations. After all these, he came up with a very huge wood block which he gave the name Manao Tupapau , and while still in Tahiti, he continued to make the wood cuts until they reached 30 (Wanczura,2009). His life was characterized with great poverty until his death in the year 1903. However, a show was held of his works three years after his death.

This is when the people recognized his art works and importance of them in inspiring the modern art; unfortunately, this was somehow late (Wanczura, 2009). In conclusion, it is quite sad that his work was actually recognized in his death and that he could not enjoy the successes of his work. The legacy that he left will continue to inspire this period of art history and even the coming ones. References A & E Television Networks. (2010). Paul Gauguin Bibliography. Retrieved from http://www. biography. com/articles/Paul-Gauguin-9307741 Bill, G. & Gaus, K.

(2010). Paul Gauguin. Retrieved from http://www. notablebiographies. com/Fi-Gi/Gauguin-Paul. html Encyclopedia of World Biography. (2006). Encyclopedia of World Biography on Paul Gauguin. Retrieved from http://www. bookrags. com/biography/paul-gauguin/ Mathews, N. (2001). Paul Gauguin: An erotic life. Retrieved from http://www. wnyc. org/books/3016 Pioch, N. (2010). Gauguin, (Eugene-Henri) Paul. Retrieved from http://www. ibiblio. org/wm/paint/auth/gauguin/ Wancruza, D. (2009). Paul Gauguin. Retrieved from http://www. artelino. com/articles/paul_gauguin. asp


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