Arearea or Joyfulness, 1892

Paul Gauguin was born 165 years ago today.  French Impressionism is my favorite art movement.  During the 1870s, painters like Monet, Van Gogh and Gauguin were breaking away from what was considered traditional art ideals.  Claude Monet’s work Impressionism paved the way for other French artists of the time to use strong vibrant colors and smaller brush strokes suggesting both movement and a feeling of natural light in their works.


La Vision après le Sermon (La Lutte de Jacob avec l’Ange) or The Vision After the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the Angel), 1888

Paul Gauguin is a Post French-Impressionist (and all this time I was referring to him as an Impressionist) and although he has never been one of my favorite artists, I still appreciate his unique sense of color.  Gauguin was a major influcence on my favorite painter, Vincent Van Gogh.  In fact, he stayed with Vincent for several months in the little yellow house in Arles in 1888.  Even though they were good friends, they also got in heated discussions, both having very strong opionios about the creative process.  Van Gogh, at one point, pulled a razor on Gauguin.  I think their relationship disolved after that.


Vincent Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers, 1888

In 1891, Gauguin left France and sailed to the South Seas and it was here that many of his great pieces were produced.  Like his friend, Vincent Van Gogh, Gauguin suffered from depression and was never appreciated during his lifetime.  He passed in 1903.


Femmes de Tahiti, ou Sur la plage or Tahitian Women on the Beach, 1891

If you compare Gauguin’s work to other Impressionists from this period, you see a striking difference (at least I do).  The frenetic brush strokes that you see in a Vincent painting, for example, are absent in a Gauguin painting.  He exaggerates the female figure and his paintings are filled with cultural symbolism.  Gauguin doesn’t follow the correct perspective when he paints (most Impressionists do away with what is considered “correct” Perspective) and his objects almost appear flat, maybe as a way for his subjects to be more prominent.  I’ve been looking at several of his paintings today and they are quite stunning.  I said above that he has never been one of my favorite artists, however, I might change my mind on that.

Te Faaturuma

Te Faaturuma, 1891

*Note:  I’m no art academic so take what I say with a grain of salt.  Van Gogh by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith-excellent biography and where I got a lot of information about Gauguin.