Gauguin’s Success Came After His Death


Gauguin’s Success Came After His Death

Paul Gauguin is nowadays recognized as a painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramist, and writer of the late 19th-century. He is seen as a critical figure in the Symbolist movement. His artworks prepared the artists and the art community of his time for what is today known as Primitivism in art.

He had a great influence on artists of his time and later. He was, for instance, a friend of Picasso, and Picasso drew inspiration for his “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” from Gauguin’s work depicting mask-like characteristics in his figures.

Understanding why his artworks have only had great success after his Death helps to learn about Gauguin even as the kind of person. When you follow Gauguin’s life and look at his works at different stages of his painting career, you realize that the art community in his time was not ready for all his new ideas.

Paul Gauguin Artist

The French painter Paul Gauguin’s full name was Eugène-Henri-Paul Gauguin. Born in Paris in 1848, painter Paul Gauguin died in 1903 in French Polynesia.

Paul Gauguin’s art has been categorized as Post-Impressionist, Synthetic, and Symbolist. He could sell his paintings, but always for relatively low prices. As a result, he lived most of his later life in poverty after becoming a full-time painter.

Although he sold some of his work, he never established a significant market for himself. He was also largely met with contempt by critics and collectors.

More to Learn about Gauguin Artist – First Years

While Gauguin’s father was from Orléans, his mother was of Peruvian and French descent. During the family’s move from his birthplace in Paris to Peru in 1848, his father died en route. His mother and her children stayed in Lima for four years and returned to France.

At age 17, Paul Gauguin enlisted in the merchant marine and sailed worldwide for six years. When his mother died in 1867, his legal guardian released him from the merchant marine and helped him start as a stockbroker. In 1873 he married a Danish woman named Mette Sophie Gad. After his marriage, he began painting in his free time. Although he had not received any formal art tuition, this part-time painting started the painter Paul Gauguin’s career as an artist.

As he painted more and more as a part-time artist, he arranged to use a studio where he could draw from a model. He also received non-formal artistic instruction during this time. In 1876 one of his artworks, titled “Landscape at Viroflay,” was accepted by the Salon for exhibition at their annual show in France.

He met the painter Pissarro in the middle 1800s and studied under him. In the beginning, he struggled to master painting and drawing techniques, but in 1880, 1881, and 1882 he was included in Impressionist exhibitions. The holidays when he spent time painting with Pissarro and Cézanne helped develop the painter Paul Gauguin and later, he also exhibited at the Impressionist exhibition in 1886.

Paul Gauguin’s later Life and Works up to the 1890s

Tropical Vegetation – Paul Gauguin

Although his family was struggling financially, he did not stop painting. He also participated in the final Impressionist exhibition in 1886. This was the exhibition where he showed 19 masterpieces.

However, his paintings were overshadowed by other painters who were also exhibiting there. The art critics didn’t find “anything new” in the exhibited works. This angered him, and he started to make ceramic vessels for sale, but he was not very successful with that. He just couldn’t get the art community interested in his art.

He then traveled to Pont-Aven in the Brittany region, seeking a simpler life. Finally, he sailed to the French Caribbean island of Martinique to “live like a savage.”

Check painter Paul Gauguin’s artworks painted on Martinique. You’ll see that paintings like “Tropical Vegetation” and “By the Sea” show that Gauguin was moving away from the Impressionist technique.

The Painter Paul Gauguin after 1891

Te faruru (aka The Encounter) 1892 – Paul Gauguin

In 1891, a Gauguin artist decided to escape the constructions of European society, and he went to Tahiti to get away from colonialism. He thought that he would find personal and creative freedom there. However, when he arrived in Tahiti, Gauguin was disappointed that French colonial authorities had westernized most of the island. He then settled among the native people and away from the Europeans living in the capital.

There are a few Paul Gauguin famous drawings created during this time. He “borrowed” from the native culture and mixed it with his own culture creating new, innovative works. For example, in “La Orana Maria,” he transformed the Christian figures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus into a Tahitian mother and child.

Gauguin returned to France in 1893 to show some of his Tahitian pieces. Unfortunately, the response to his artwork was not very good. Critics and art buyers didn’t know what to make of his primitivism style.

Gauguin then returned to French Polynesia and, amongst other paintings, created one of his masterpieces, namely “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”

Famous after his Death

Despite the adverse reaction of the art community to his works in 1893, his artworks became very popular among art collectors after his death in 1903. One of the reasons for the new interest can be found in the exhibition of 277 of his works at the Salon d’Automne exhibition in 1906.

The 277 works confirmed that the French painter Paul Gauguin was a leading figure in developing Primitivism and Post-Impressionism in the twentieth century. Nowadays, Gauguin’s famous drawings and paintings are seen as works that prepared the path for Primitivism and the return to the pastoral. In addition, he is now recognized as a critical figure in the Symbolist movement. Gauguin’s painting “When will you marry?” is worth more than $300 million and was sold to an unidentified buyer in 2015.


The painter Paul Gauguin was a critical Primitivism artist and a leading painter in the process of returning to the pastoral. Unfortunately, he was not accoladed as such by the art community of his time. But after 277 of his works had been exhibited in 1906, art scholars and art collectors realized the importance of Gauguin as an artist.


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