Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903) was a French post-Impressionist artist who was active for much of his career in the South Pacific, where he produced a distinctive body of work. He is remembered as an important figure in the Symbolist movement as well as for his use of bold colors and striking compositions.
Gauguin was born in Paris to a liberal journalist father and a mother who was a passionate Catholic. His family moved around frequently, and he spent his childhood in France, Italy, and England. He showed an early interest in art, but his father discouraged him from pursuing it as a career. In 1874, Gauguin began working for the French stockbroker firm Le Havre et Pétrolières, where he earned a good salary and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle.
He met his future wife, Mette-Sophie Gad, while on a business trip to Copenhagen in 1883. The couple married the following year and had five children together. Gauguin began to grow restless in his marriage and sought out new experiences, traveling to Panama and Martinique in the late 1880s.
In 1891, Gauguin left his family and sailed to Tahiti, where he hoped to find a more simple and authentic way of life. He initially lived in an native village, but later moved to the capital, Papeete. There he opened a small art studio and began to produce a series of paintings featuring Tahitian subjects.
Gauguin returned to France in 1893, but he was not able to sell his Tahitian paintings and was met with critical indifference. He became deeply depressed and attempted suicide. After recovering, he resolved to return to Tahiti and live there permanently.
In 1895, Gauguin finally achieved his goal of returning to Tahiti. He initially settled in the village of Atuona on the island of Hiva Oa, where he built himself a small hut and planted a garden. He also began work on a large painting called “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”, which is considered to be one of his masterpieces.
Gauguin continued to live in Tahiti for the rest of his life, although he made a few trips back to France. His health began to deteriorate in 1901, and he died two years later at the age of 54.
Gauguin was a highly original artist who was instrumental in the development of the Post-Impressionist movement. His bold use of color and distinctive style have made him one of the most popular artists of the late 19th century.