Paul Gauguin

Paris June 7, 1848 - 1903 May 8, French Polynesia


SEE ALSO    Gauguin and Borobudur

Article on the Gauguin Exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2004 - Page 1, Page 2

La Orana Maria


Parahi Te Marae

Parau Na Te Varua'Ino

Tahitian Eve

Te Aa No Areois




June 7th, Gauguin is born in Paris.


Lives in Peru with his mother and ?sister. His father died on the trip there.


After years in a boarding school in Orleans, France he attends the Petit Seminaire.


Joins the merchant marines.


Joins the navy.


A second class Seaman, war breaks out.


Granted a 10 month leave with optional extension. Takes position in a brokerage firm.


Marries Mette Sophie Gad of a well to do Dutch, Lutheran family. Picks up hobby of painting.


The Salon accepts a landscape painting.


Pissarro, a friend of his mother's, introduces him to Cezanne and Guillaumin. He is forming a collection of Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Guillaumin, Sisley, Jongkind and Pissarro.


Beginning as a painter. Shows in the 5th Impressionist Exhibition a series of landscapes.


Written up by Huysmans.


January 83 he gives up his business. Has several children at this point. Moved to Rouen for eight months. That did not work. He moves to Copenhagen, in with Mette's parents. They did not get along due to his eccentricity and inability to make a living.


June they separate, Gauguin and his son Clovis move to Paris leaving Mette and the four other children: Aline, Emile, Paul and Jean behind. Mette makes a living giving lessons and translating, mostly Zola.

Clovis is sick, chicken pox. G takes a job at the station as a bill poster. Three weeks later he is promoted to inspector. Afterward Clovis' recovery, still delicate, G takes him to a pension in the Paris suburbs. Then G gets sick and spends 27 days in the hospital.


8th Impressionist Exhibition (last) at Rue Laffitte. His separation with the impressionists had begun.

Goes to Pont-Aven (First trip to Brittany) and stays at the Hotel of Mere Gloanec. He meets Bernard. The two of them are not cordial. Also meets Charles Laval.

Goes to Paris at the year end and is friends with Van Gogh in Montmarte.


Goes to Panama (Leaves Paris April 10th?) Works digging the canal to make money for a trip to Martinique. He is happy there. He arove with Charles Laval. Within a few months Laval becomes sick and then G gets dysentery. They return to Paris.

Split from Impressionism clear. Dashes of color could not express the blues of the sea, the reds of the native clothing, or the green of the vegetation. Flat spaces of bright color.


Schuffenecker takes him in on Rue Boulard. Private showing at Boussod-Valadon where he makes little money. In the spring he goes to Brittany where Laval, Bernard and Serusier are. Theory of Synthesis born. Silhouettes of objects and people surrounded by a line, this is called 'cloisonnism' We saw this on his Martinique canvases, but Bernard did it before G in Brittany.

He falls sick. Goes to Arles on van Gogh's invitation. One night van Gogh throws a glass at G's head. Next day G hears van Gogh running towards him from behind on the street with a razor. Van Gogh turns, goes into the house, cuts his ear off, places it in an envelope and gives it to the doorman. G goes to Brittany and van Gogh to an asylum.


The Cafe Volpani Exhibition, "Impressionist and Synthetist Group", runs concurrently with the Paris Universal Exhibition. The word 'Impressionism' used for publicity's sake. The aesthetic doctrine of the movement was opposed to I and Neo-Impressionist's "who searched round the eye and not in the mysterious center of thought, and so lapsed into scientific reasoning." (G) The Synthetist doctrine of G and Emile Bernard maintained the necessity of painting not from life but from memory, not "before the object (but)... by returning to it in the imagination (that had absorbed it, and after simplification, had retained its)... synthesis."2

Volpani has a cafe called Cafe des Arts. The mirrors he had ordered to decorate the walls had not arrived so he is convinced to place paintings by G, Bernard, Schuffenecker, Laval, Anquetin, Louis Roy, Leon Fauche, Georges Daniel and Ludovic Nemo. This is the only place during the Exposition Universelle that showed art not "approved" by the Academy? - the organizing body of the exposition at large? Not a picture sold. Pointed at and criticized while patrons of the cafe enjoy the Russian orchestra.

At the Universal Exhibition he tours the French Colonial Section looking at Far Eastern Sculpture originals and replicas. There was a Javanese village where he frequently watched native dances and bought a photo of the Borobudur relief on which he based the adoring women in Ia Orana Maria, which he brought with him to Tahiti. Java was colonized by the Dutch and India by Britain, so Tahiti became the place he wanted to move.5 (p 26).

He leaves Paris quite discouraged for Brittany. When he arrives at Pension Gloanec he finds academic artists and tourists. He goes to Pouldu. There he finds Laval, Filiger, de Haan, Seguin. School of Pont-Aven includes those artists at Pont-Aven and Pouldu. G more important because of his bigger personality.

He paints Christ Jaune and La Belle Angle.


Mostly spent in Pouldu. End of the year he goes to Paris with his strongest reputation, but not material success. Symbolist literary writers call him the father of Synthesism. Frequents Cafe Voltaire where Albert Aurier took him. Meets Verlaine, Moreas and Charles Morice who would write a fine book on G.

August Vincent Van Gogh shoots himself in the breast and dies of loss of blood.


Holds a big sale of 30 canvases for 9,860 francs, 40 short of the goal. Gives away his belongings to his friends. Charles Morice helps him obtain a letter from the Ministry of Public Instruction and Fine Arts describing Gauguin as on a mission officielle. And he head for Tahiti.

March 23    His friends throw him a farewell party.

April 7    A week after the Oceanien left Marseilles

May 12    Disembark on Noumea and the official letter gets him prompt passage to Tahiti on Vire. (18 days later?)

June 9    He is in Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, which he does not like due to its colonialistic nature. July he journeys south to Paea? where he meets Titi. He does not carry on with her to Mataiea where he settles down in a hut. 50 families live there.

He had Titi join him again in Mataiea but that did not work for long. Then Tehura, thirteen years old came to his hut and he lived with her in Mataiea and Pampeet.

He began Ia Orana Maria. Grows sick, coughing up a quarter liter of blood a day. (see Letter in folder). Goes to Papeete for treatment. The hospital was twelve francs a day and he discharged himself after the first treatments were over. He most likely had a well developed case of syphilis. He returns to Mataiea and his landlord, Anani allows him to stay in the European style villa. He turns the Ia Orana Maria canvas vertically and continues, completely repainting it.


Great concern for money.  Goes to Papeete in February to inquire about a magistrate post on the Marquesas Islands, turned down. June, looking for passage to France.


May 1, G sails back to Europe. Aug 3 arrives. Uncle dies end of September leaving him 13,000 francs. Beaux-Arts did not buy the promised canvases.

Exhibits at Durand-Ruel's Gallery November 9th. It was postponed one week? 41 of the 62 pictures he brought back and 2 of dozens of wood carvings. Three paintings from Brittany as well. He sold eleven which did not cover the expenses of the exhibition. Atttendence was sold out though.

Meets Annah, a Javanese woman, in Montmarte and they later move in together.

Year end he visits Belgium and a last meeting with his wife in Copenhagen.


Spring he goes to Pouldu, then Pont-Aven with Annah. Fight with sailors over Annah. Broke his ankle. Annah splits, goes to Paris, takes what she wants from their flat there and disappears.


Big Sale February 18 at Hotel Drouot. 49 items, many shown at D-R's exhibit. Prices low. All this time since Tahiti, G has not risen in prestige or gained any new admirers. Distributes belongs and leaves for Tahiti for good. Settles in Pounoaovia on the western side of Tahiti.


"Gauguin restores the essence - the soul of hte enflamed world in which he lived."4 (p. 37)

Gets sick.


Death of his daughter Aline. Stops writing to Mette. He is in the hospital for awhile.

Paints Nevermore and Whence we come?

La Revue Blanche publishes Noa Noa.


Attempts suicide. Takes a clerk job at the Public works office at Papeete.


Moves to the Marquesas at Dominica in September.


Heart trouble. Legs covered with open sores.


March 31, sentenced to threee months in jail and a 1000 franc fine for championing the natives.

May 8th Gauguin dies.

Serusier, Ballin and Verkade retained close ties to the Pont-Aven School.



1)    The Nabis, Parisian Vanguard. Humorous Illustrators, and the Circle of the Chat Noir. Patricia Eckert Boyer. (an article found in a book in the National Art Library, London)
2)    Praeger Encyclopedia of Art Luc-Reinhardt. Praeger Publishers, 1971.
3)    Paul Gauguin: A Life, David Sweetman. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1995.
4)    Gauguin, Raymond Cogniet. Editions Pierre Tisne, Paris, 1947.
5)    Gauguin in the South Seas, Bengt Danielsson. Doubleday Company, Inc., New York, 1966.
6)    Paradise Reviewed: An Interpretation of Gauguin's Polynesian Symbolism, Jehanne Teilhet-Fisk. UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1983.