Gauguin became an artist after traveling the world as a merchant marine and working as a stockbroker’s assistant. His unconventional artistic path made him uniquely open to exploring a wide range of materials, including wood, wax, and ceramics.
Traveling the World
Gauguin spent the first six years of his life in Peru and, as an adult, lived in Paris, Brittany, Martinique, Tahiti, and the Marquesas Islands. In every place, he absorbed—and reinvented—the local artistic and cultural traditions.
Reinventing the Past
When Gauguin first traveled to Tahiti, he was dismayed to find that much of the local culture had been transformed by colonization. The works he created there are not historically accurate but rather his reimagining of what the island might have once been.
Discovering New Methods
My goal was to transform … by intelligent hands which could impart the life of a face to a vase and yet remain true to the character of the material. – Paul Gauguin
Experimenting to the End
Gauguin was radically creative throughout his career. He never stopped experimenting with new methods, and his art continues to fascinate because it remains unpredictable, contradictory, and enormously varied in medium, form, and content.
Explore the Art Institute of Chicago’s Gauguin Collection
Major support is provided by Lesley and Janice Lederer.
Additional funding is contributed by anonymous donors, the Alice M. La Pert Fund for French Impressionism, Juliette F. Bacon, the Kemper Educational and Charitable Fund, Ann C. Cooluris, Katherine L. Olson Charitable Foundation, Margot Levin Schiff and the Harold Schiff Foundation, Barbara and Marc Posner, the Robert Lehman Foundation, and David and Mary Winton Green Research Fund.
This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
Annual support for Art Institute exhibitions is provided by the Exhibitions Trust: Neil Bluhm and the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation; Jay Franke and David Herro; Kenneth Griffin; Caryn and King Harris, The Harris Family Foundation; Liz and Eric Lefkofsky; Robert M. and Diane v.S. Levy; Ann and Samuel M. Mencoff; Usha and Lakshmi N. Mittal; Thomas and Margot Pritzker; Anne and Chris Reyes; Betsy Bergman Rosenfield and Andrew M. Rosenfield; Cari and Michael J. Sacks; the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation; and the Woman’s Board.
Support for Media Production provided by the Woman’s Board of the Art Institute of Chicago.