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France • 1848−1903
Paul Gauguin (fr. Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin, June 7, 1848, Paris, France - May 8, 1903, Atuona, French Polynesia) - French post-impressionist artist. Youth Gauguin spent on the ships of the merchant fleet, traveling around the world. After that, he returned to France, got married and became a stockbroker. A few years later, Gauguin suddenly began to paint, and eventually quit his job, left the family and went to live in Tahiti, where he wrote his most famous canvases. But during his lifetime, the artist received almost no recognition, critics and journalists ridiculed his work. The last years of his life Gauguin spent on the Marquesas.

Features of the artist Paul Gauguin: Gauguin's early work can be attributed to impressionism, he later goes on to cloisonism and synthetism. In his most famous Tahitian canvases, he most often uses very bright, clean, sometimes even unnatural colors. The heroes of his paintings are semi-nude native girls surrounded by village huts and tropical landscapes.

Famous paintings by Paul Gauguin: "When the wedding?", "Woman with a flower", "Woman holding fruit", "Where did we come from?" Who are we? Where are we going?", "The spirit of the dead does not sleep", "Yellow Christ", "Where are you going?"

If you say that Paul Gauguin was a great artist, there are very few people who are ready, and most importantly - able, to object to this. But the claim that Paul Gauguin was a great man, on the contrary, is very controversial. The artist, of course, was an outstanding personality, to the lot of which fell many troubles and hardships. But if we consider him as a person, abstracting from talent and creative heritage, we can only wonder how he managed to get along with people, or rather, how these people tolerated him.

Gauguin was aggressive and arrogant, spoiled relations with others and quarreled with each other (sometimes just for fun). He considered himself an unrecognized genius and lived the dream of the moment when the whole world would cruelly repent of not understanding his talent. The only person to whom Gauguin was really attached was his daughter Alina (she, by the way, was the main admirer of his work even when no one believed in him). But Alina did not manage to either keep the artist close to her, nor persuade him to take her with her to distant warm lands.

The only thing that worked out for Gauguin really well (except for painting, of course) was to run away. His escape was selfless, desperate and never brought him peace. Throughout his life, an artist with varying degrees of success escaped from obligations and responsibilities, lack of money and non-recognition, family and everyday life, civilization, in the end. The important thing is that this has always been precisely “the flight from ...”, but the goal of this endless journey from Gauguin has always eluded.

Family business

Apparently, the confidence that his life will be extraordinary, and that he deserves a special attitude, appeared in Gauguin in early childhood. At the age of one and a half years, he made his first long journey — from France to Peru — and in it he tragically lost his father. In Lima, little Paul and his mother Alina and sister Maria lived in full prosperity in the house of a distant millionaire relative. If the direct heirs of Don Pio had not intervened, the Gauguin family could inherit a considerable fortune, and then the world would most likely have lost one great artist. But such was the evil fate that had persecuted the Gauguin family through the maternal line - they all had to live in poverty for the most part of their lives.

It is difficult to imagine how difficult it was for a seven-year-old Field to adapt to the new conditions of life when the family returned to France and settled in the house of his grandfather in Orleans. The boy got used to other landscapes outside the window, to a different speech (his first language was Spanish) and to a completely different level of life. More recently, he was treated like a little king, and now he has to go to an ordinary French school and start thinking about boring work in some ordinary field. This Paul could not allow. Without listening to his mother, who advises him to make a career (because he hardly converges with people and “does not know how to win favor”), and choosing the path of a father who at one time violated family tradition and became a journalist instead of a greengrocer, Gauguin hires fleet. For the next six years he travels around the world, like a sponge soaking up impressions. Even the news of the death of his mother, who found him in India only a few months later, could not stop him. But in the end, Gauguin still returned to France and gradually turned into someone he so desperately did not want to be.

Calm before the storm

The next few years passed for Gauguin as if in some strange dream. He nevertheless got an ordinary job as a stockbroker (you can’t think of a more boring job, but this job brought a stable and very high income), married the rough Danish Mette Gad, who actually replaced his mother, and got children. Those who knew Gauguin at that time recalled that he was very quiet and taciturn, as if he was sleeping on the move, but sometimes there was some kind of bestial primal rage in him. Able, after long years in the navy, to bend horseshoes with his bare hands, Paul could suddenly pounce on the unintentional offender with his fists and seriously cripple him.

It seemed that such a life — family, stable work, prosperity — can only be dreamed of. But this was not at all what Gauguin wanted for himself. Only one thing saved him from this lethargy - an unexpectedly discovered artistic talent. I must say, Paul was very lucky with the patron. An old friend of his mother, Gustave Arosa, not only helped him find a job in his time, but later introduced him to Camille Pissarro. Following Arosa, Gauguin becomes a collector of paintings, and later he himself begins to write. The friendship with Pissarro lasted for many years, Gauguin called him none other than the “master” and admired his talent. But only up to that moment, until he believed in his own highest destiny. Many years later, Pissarro, in a conversation with journalist Charles Morris, spoke about the former student in a better way: “A real artist should be impoverished and not recognized, he should be concerned with art, and not the opinion of the dumb critics. And this man himself appointed a genius and turned the case so that we, his friends, have to sing along with him. Paul forced me to help him with the exhibition, made you write an article about her ... And what the hell is he dragging into Panama, Martinique and Tahiti? A true artist will find nature in Paris - it's not about exotic tinsel, but about what's in your soul. ”. Anyway, Pissarro and other impressionists had a serious influence on Gauguin’s work, at least on his early works (1, 2, 3).

In 1882 there was a stock market crisis in France, and Gauguin lost his job. The painting market has also suffered, the paintings of such little-known artists, which were already sold rather sluggishly, completely stopped finding buyers. But despite this, he regarded the loss of work on the stock exchange as a sign: he needed to become a real artist. Mette, worrying about the welfare of the family, made her husband scandals and called him crazy. Critics who disparagedly responded to the works of Gauguin, and even his friends, who with great difficulty tried to feed themselves with painting, would agree with her. But he seemed to wake up at last from a long sleep. The future saw Gauguin as rainbow and happy. In fact, there will be a lot of bright colors in it, but happiness ...

One step from immortality

About happiness Gauguin will forget for a few more years. The family remained in Copenhagen, Mette literally kicked out her husband, unable to support his family. In Paris, he often had to starve and take on the lowest paid job in order to feed himself at least somehow. Gauguin will move to Brittany, briefly linger in Arles, visit Panama and Martinique ... The constant need and thirst for something more drove him farther and farther. Gradually, in the minds of Gauguin, the image of the place he wanted to go began to take shape. Childhood in Peru, sailing to faraway countries in his youth, Panama, Martinique ... He saw sensual swarthy women (who silently adore him and not demand that he provide them), reed-covered huts (for which you don’t have to pay for life), abundant growing exotic fruits (which would save him from having to look for money for food).

What was Gauguin’s disappointment when he first stepped off the ship to the Tahitian coast and saw a completely civilized city with shops and taverns, brick houses and people in European clothes. The artist was late for coming here for several decades: during this time, the colonists managed to have a serious impact on the way of life of the islanders. However, in the far corners of the island, Gauguin still found the simple native life of which he had dreamed. And what he did not find, helpfully drew his rich imagination. The artist begins to write a lot and with inspiration, preferring cloisonism and synthetism and gradually honing his own unique style. At this time, he creates many of his most famous works: "Woman with a flower" (1891), "When the wedding?" (1892), "Woman holding fruit" (1893).

In 1893, Gauguin returned to France, full of confidence that now his genius will finally be recognized. Despite the complete lack of money and shaky health (the doctors diagnosed syphilis in a neglected form), he brings his new paintings home in anticipation of triumph. But the artist was only waiting for a new cruel disappointment. His exhibition was a failure, critics and journalists literally trampled him, calling his canvases "the fabrications of a sick brain, outrage at Art and Nature." On top of that, during his visit to Copenhagen, it turns out that the younger children of Gauguin will not recognize him at all. Mette, to whom the artist throughout all this time wrote letters and sent his works, put him out of the house, not wanting to talk to him. Having received several crushing blows at once, Gauguin decides to leave for the islands again - this time forever.

Exhausted by poverty and disease, broken by the news of the death of Alina’s beloved daughter, in 1878, the artist realizes that in this world he is no longer holding anything. At parting, he decides to create a real masterpiece - the canvas "Where did we come from?" Who are we? Where are we going?" After the work on the painting was completed, Gauguin went to the mountains to die. And then he cursed himself with the last words for not even being able to poison himself and taking too much arsenic.

After this “rebirth”, Gauguin's life began to improve in an amazing way. The disease retreated for a while, and his paintings finally began to be sold in Paris. The artist moved to the Marquesas Islands, built a large house here and personally decorated it with wooden carvings. His fatherly talent as a journalist suddenly woke up in him, but Gauguin never for a moment forgot about his true vocation and continues to write. Famous canvases are born here. "The gold of their bodies" (1901), "Spell" (1903) and last self portrait (1903). Drawing himself for the last time, Gauguin finally abandons his beloved image of a "savage", depicting a calm and tired man who has lived a life, albeit a difficult one, but full of impressions.

Paul Gauguin was found dead in his "House of Pleasures" at the age of 54. On the bedside table near his bed there was an empty bottle of opium tincture. Looks like he did everything right this time. The last escape was a success.

Author: Evgenia Sidelnikova
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