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Paul Gauguin – Virtual Tour

Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin – Virtual Tour

Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903) was a French post-Impressionist artist who was not appreciated until after his death. Gauguin is now recognized for his experimental use of color and the Synthetist style that were distinctly different from Impressionism.

He spent the last ten years of his life in French Polynesia, and most of his paintings from this time depict people or landscapes from that region.

His work was influential to the French avant-garde and many modern artists, such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Gauguin’s art became famous after his death.

Gauguin was an essential figure in the Symbolist movement as a painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramist, and writer.

A Virtual Tour of Paul Gauguin

Highlights Tour of Paul Gauguin

Vision after the Sermon

“Vision after the Sermon” by Paul Gauguin depicts a scene from the Bible in which Jacob wrestles an angel. It illustrates this indirectly, through a vision that the women see after a sermon in church.

It was painted in Brittany, France, in 1888, where Gauguin focused increasingly on interpreting the religious subject matter in his unique personal way. Gauguin was moving away from naturalism towards a more abstracted, even symbolic, manner of painting.

The tale of Jacob wrestling an angel is from Genesis in the Old Testament.

The bold use of color, shape, and line in this painting reflects the influence of the Japanese woodblock prints that Gauguin owned.

While formal elements of Gauguin’s paintings reflect the impact of Japanese prints, his choice of subject and composition are uniquely his own.

As Gauguin developed the idea of non-naturalistic landscapes, he applied large areas of flat color to the piece. The red ground departs from the conventional representation of the landscape.

In portraying the watching figures, Gauguin experiments with the distortion of shapes, exaggerating features. He uses sharp contour lines and not gradual shifts in tone.

he brown trunk, black garments, white hats, and red fields are painted with minimal color shading. Museum: Scottish National Gallery

Self Portraits by Paul Gauguin

     Gauguin in front of his Easel

Self Portrait – Gauguin in front of his Easel by Paul Gauguin was painted in Denmark just before Gauguin decided to return to Paris.

This painting is both somber and defiant in mood and is the first of his many self-portraits. Painted as he was deciding that rather than remaining jobless in Copenhagen, he would return to Paris to pursue his art career.

Examination of this painting with infrared light and radiographs has revealed that Gauguin made significant changes. Initially, he portrayed himself in profile and included reproductions of his paintings in the background.

In the final version, he is in full profile, but depicted as left-handed, like his image in a mirror.

He showed himself cramped in a small attic space and cold, with the lapels of his jacket tightly closed.  His eyes are looking towards another future. Museum: Kimbell Art Museum

       Portrait of the Artist with the Yellow Christ

Portrait of the Artist with the Yellow Christ by Paul Gauguin was painted on the eve of Gauguin’s first trip to Tahiti.

He was virtually unknown at the time and abandoned by his wife, who had gone back to Denmark with their children.

Gauguin was misunderstood and was having trouble obtaining an official mission to settle in the colonies.

Gauguin’s stare expresses his burdens as well as his determination to pursue his art. In the background, he has included two works he had painted the previous year. O

n the left is his painting of “The Yellow Christ,” the image of sublimated suffering, which he painted in his likeness. Christ’s arm stretched above his head suggests a protective gesture. Museum: Musée d’Orsay

Tahitian Women by Paul Gauguin

“Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” by Paul Gauguin depicts three major figure groups illustrating the questions posed in the title of this composition.

Gauguin felt strongly about this painting, he stated:

“I believe that this canvas not only surpasses all my preceding ones but that I shall never do anything better—or even like it.”

Staring with the group on the right, the three women with a child represent the beginning of life. The middle group symbolizes the daily existence of young and adulthood.  Museum:  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Tahitian Women

     The Dream

“The Dream” by Paul Gauguin depicts two women watching over a sleeping child in a room decorated with elaborate wood reliefs. The figures are not communicating to heightening the sense of mystery. Gauguin wrote:

“Everything is a dream in this canvas: is it the child? Is it the mother? Is it the horseman on the path? or even is it the dream of the painter!!!” Museum:  Courtauld Institute of Art 

       Not to work

“Not to work” by Paul Gauguin depicts two young Tahitians passing the time idling in a hut smoking. Through the window, we can the artist painting outdoors.

The painting symbolizes the relaxed, natural, and contemplative lifestyle of the Tahiti islanders compared to Gauguin’s need to creat. – Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts

      Three Tahitians

Three Tahitians by Paul Gauguin depicts three figures stand out against a vivid, colorful background. Two women flank a young man, who is seen only from behind.

The women seem to be offering him a choice between the apple and the flowers. The options are between vice and virtue. – Scottish National Gallery

     Three Tahitian Women Against a Yellow Background

“Three Tahitian Women Against a Yellow Background” by Paul Gauguin depicts the world of the so-called “savages,” which the artist believed preserved that natural harmony which had been lost by the “civilization” of Europe.

Gauguin’s work contains unclear symbolic meanings, while at the same time, his artistic achievement of harmony of color and graceful lines have made him highly popular artist after his death. – Hermitage Museum

      And the Gold of Their Bodies

“And the Gold of their Bodies” by Paul Gauguin was produced during the artist’s final years after he settled on the Marquesas Islands, in the village of Atuona.

Gauguin built a house he called his “House of Pleasure,” in search of a paradise where he could create pure, “primitive” art. – Musée d’Orsay

      Barbarian Tales

“Barbarian Tales” by Paul Gauguin is a mysterious painting, in which his past and present meet in this painting.

The past is represented by the depiction of his friend Jacob Meyer de Haan, who had died in 1895. Gauguin had painted his portrait three years earlier.

Gauguin re-used this diabolic-looking image of his friend in the middle of a Tahitian landscape. The lilies are ancient symbols of life and death.

The present is represented by his favorite young Tahitian models who gaze directly at the viewer. – Museum Folkwang

       The Call

“The Call” by Paul Gauguin is part of a series of the artist’s late works that explore the mysteries of life and death.

Two women stand bare feet, with one of the women gesturing to someone outside the picture. Gauguin, at this late stage in his life, was painting from memory and imagination to achieve mysterious, dreamlike images.

Paul Gauguin was preparing himself to respond to his “call” from destiny. – Cleveland Museum of Art

        The Siesta

“The Siesta” by Paul Gauguin depicts the grace and communal ease of Tahitian women.

Gauguin made numerous changes to this composition that included changing the skirt of the woman in the foreground, which was initially red to the black color.

He also moved the figures in relation to each other to increase the relaxed feeling of the scene. – Metropolitan Museum of Art

        The Moon and the Earth

“The Moon and the Earth” by Paul Gauguin depicts an ancient Polynesian myth, in which Hina, the female spirit of the Moon, implores Fatou, the male spirit of the Earth, to grant humans eternal life. Fatou denies the request.

Hina’s figure is in full view, while Fatou, is shown from the chest up. The male spirit of the Earth is darker and more significant in the background. -– Museum of Modern Art

         Hail Mary

“Hail Mary” by Paul Gauguin is one of the first works in his Tahitian period. The depiction shows two Polynesians greeting the Madonna and Child.  – Metropolitan Museum of Art

         Two Tahitian Women With Mango Flowers

“Two Tahitian Women With Mango Flowers” by Paul Gauguin depicts two topless women, one holding mango blossoms, on the Pacific Island of Tahiti. The two women in the painting confront the viewer with a direct gaze.

Gauguin has used an artistic tradition of comparing woman’s breasts to flowers or fruit in this painting. – Metropolitan Museum of Art

Paul Gauguin

Famous French Artist You Should Know

Paul Gauguin Quotes

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“I shut my eyes in order to see.”

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“In art, all who have done something other than their predecessors have merited the epithet of revolutionary, and it is they alone who are masters.”

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“We never really know what stupidity is until we have experimented on ourselves.”

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“Art is either plagiarism or revolution.”

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“Art requires philosophy, just as philosophy requires art. Otherwise, what would become of beauty?”

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“Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge.”

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“It is the eye of ignorance that assigns a fixed and unchangeable color to every object; beware of this stumbling block.”

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“Civilization is what makes you sick.”

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Paul Gauguin: A collection of 283 paintings

Gauguin In Tahiti: Search For Paradise

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“Art is either plagiarism or revolution.”
– Paul Gauguin

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Photo Credit: Paul Gauguin [Public domain]

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