Vincent Van Gogh is easily among the best known and most beloved artists in art history. However, it is worth remembering that while Van Gogh went to Arles to start his ut utian artistic colony, he was desperate for one particular artist to come see him and share in his dream. That artist was French painter Paul Gauguin, whose approval was highly taken by Van Gogh. Indeed, artists like Picasso and Matisse were highly inspired by the works of Gauguin and his legacy also lives in their works.
Gauguin started his artistic career painting in his free time. He liked to go to art exhibits and bough paintings of contemporary artists. He also befriended Camille Pissarro who in turn introduced him to a number of other artists, including Paul Cezanne with what he has in later times often been compared. However, the most famous works of Gauguin came about not through his connections with other artists but through his travel to the Caribbean. Here, his art developed past the norms of impressionism as local symbolism and pure colored colors entered his paintings. He produced a number of paintings depicting the natives of these exotic lands including “Tahitian Women on the Beach”, “Woman with a Flower” and many more. These paintings are all characterized by the same constant pure colors with the colors themselves being more important than the lines in the paintings. This resolved in some very powerful paintings, in which the colored colors themselves are at least as important as the motive in telling us the mood of the painting. This use of saturated colors in a subjective fashion along with the very basic shapes used to depict people inspired later movements like Fauvism, cubism and the Synthetist style in modern arts. As Europe was at the time fascinated by the arts of other cultures, especially the Japanese arts who counted artists like Monet among its followers, the exotic nature of the subjects and the inspiration from native arts also added to the appeal of the art of Gauguin.
However, like many an artist, Gauguin would never see such recognition while he was himself alive. He lead an unhealthy life with plenty of alcohol, compensated for a lack of income with manual labor like on the Panama canal and even got sent to 3 months in prison due to problems with both church and state. He never did serve this sentence however, as he died of syphilis in 1903 before the sentence could be carried out. He was 54 years old. The interest in his work took off soon after his death, with post-humorous exhibitions at the Salon d'Automne in Paris in 1903 and 1906 drawing large crowds. Among the spectators was Pablo Picasso who was immensely inspired by the works he saw there. The price of the works of Gauguin has followed the same trajectory as the artists fame and importance. Although they are rarely traded, works have been known to fetch prices of up to $ 39.2 million. The inspiration of Gauguin also extends beyond the painted canvas. Somerset Maugham's book “The Moon and Sixpence” is thus based on the life of Gauguin, just like both operas and piano concerts have been composed in his memory.
Today, most major works by Gauguin can be found at museums in the US, including at the Boston “Museum of Fine Arts”, the New York “Museum of Modern Arts” and the Albright-Know Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York.