The multifaceted artist Paul Gauguin was born in June 1848 in Paris, France - originally named as Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin. Not only was he an exceptional painter, but was also dedicated to the art of sculpting, ceramics, printmaking, and even writing. Although Gauguin is known for being one of the greatest artists of modern history, he did not begin his career as one. He began studying in a Catholic boarding school as a child and headed to a naval preparatory school as a teenager. He would later continue in the military as a pilot assistant and eventually served in the French navy for two years. After this, at only 23 years old, Gauguin became a successful businessman as a stockbroker in Paris and continued in this path for eleven years.
Around 1873, he began painting in his free time, mostly alongside his new friend and Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. Upcoming artists inspired Gauguin to continue in the area, as he liver nearby the cafés frequented by Impressionists, while also visiting galleries and purchasing artworks. Gauguin would eventually paint with Paul Cezanne as well, but the artist that would serve as his greatest inspiration was without a doubt, Edgar Degas. By the end of the 1870s, Gauguin was gaining much financial success as a stockbroker and as an art dealer, but this didn’t last very long. The Paris stock market crashed in 1882 affecting many businessmen, especially Gauguin who found himself losing most of his earnings. He was forced to take a different direction in his life and began painting full-time. During this period, Mette-Sophie Gad was the artist’s wife -they married in 1873 - and they had five children together. Along with the stock market crash that led to his career failure, his marriage also fell apart, resulting in his return to Paris in 1885.
Gauguin found it very difficult to re-insert himself into the art world and suffered to make a living when he arrived. In 1886, the artist exhibited almost 20 paintings at the last Impressionists exhibit, the Salon des Refusés. Although Gauguin worked with other Impressionists, he was not part of the group nor did his paintings have an Impressionist style. He eventually broke off with Pissarro because of their difference in artistic views - Pissarro was leaning towards Pointillism. Gauguin wished to go in a different direction then what was being produced in Europe at the time, and felt disappointed in the way Impressionists imitated what they saw, finding it necessary to add more symbolic depth to art. Him and other artists like Charles Laval, Émile Schuffenecker, Emile Bernard, among others, traveled to Pont-Aven, a commune in Northwestern France, creating paintings with areas of pure and bold colors, along with Symbolist characteristics. This movement became known as the Pont-Aven School, and many artists sought inspiration in exotic cultures, like the beautiful masks that came to Europe from Africa.
In 1888, Gauguin traveled to Arles, where Vincent Van Gogh was anxiously waiting for his arrival. The Dutch painter wished that Gauguin would join him in his studio, the Yellow House. They worked together for around nine weeks but had major opposing views on their production, and eventually got into a major argument that leads to Van Gogh’s meltdown and they took their separate ways. It was in 1891 that Gauguin took his most significant trip in his life with the intent of escaping the conventional and artificial aspects of civilization. It was his first time in Tahiti, and he was taken away from overall esthetic influences of the area. He registered everything he could with sketches, photographs, prints, and paintings. Woman with a Flower was the first portrait he painted of a local woman.
He returned to Paris, and the public continued not to give his art much attention. Gauguin continued to be broke and dreaming of the paradise which is Tahiti, eventually arranging cheap one-way tickets and never returning. The Modern artist passed away in 1903 at 54 years old after taking pain medication because of his many health issues. Gauguin represented one of the most influential artists of all time and was an inspiration to the work of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.