Artist Biography: Paul Gauguin
A concise biography about Gauguin's life and work.
National Gallery of Art Micro Gallery
National Gallery of Art. Micro Gallery—National Gallery of Art. Online Content. Washington, D.C., 2004.
Paul Gauguin's post-impressionist style profoundly affected the course of modern European painting. In contrast to the impressionists, he emphasized the symbolic content of his subjects and used broad, flat areas of color and dark lines to separate objects.
Gauguin spent his early childhood in Peru and was a merchant seaman before becoming a stockbroker. He began painting as an amateur around 1873, making such rapid progress that he exhibited at the Salon three years later. Gauguin, who collected and exhibited impressionist paintings, also collaborated with Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne.
The next year Gauguin began painting full time after he lost his job as a stockbroker in about 1882 during an economic downturn. He showed canvases in the last four impressionist exhibitions, subsequently developing his unique style during visits to Pont-Aven in Brittany (1886-1890). In 1888 he worked briefly with Vincent van Gogh in Arles, but they parted ways after an argument.
Searching for an unspoiled life, Gauguin left France for Tahiti. He was disappointed to find the natives had already had much contact with westerners, but was nevertheless inspired by what remained of traditional Polynesian culture. After his death, substantial public recognition of his talent came with an exhibition of his work in Paris in 1906.