Paul GauguinPaul Gauguin was a French painter who started his professional career as a banker and stockbroker, but ended up becoming one of the painters who changed the history of painting. He broke with his bourgeois life and his family to devote himself completely to art when he was 35 years old. He became a central figure within the new art direction called Synthetism or Symbolism and developed his own expressive style with powerful contours and pure, strong colours. He lived on Pacific islands, including Tahiti, from the end of the 19th century and painted a number of significant paintings, often with natives as subjects. His main work is the large symbolist picture Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?, which was completed in 1898.
Gauguin was a sailor in the years 1865–1870 and a banker from 1871. He married the Danish Mette Sophie Gad in 1873. He became interested in painting through a colleague and began working at the Académie Colarossi in 1876. His painting was amateur at this time, but revealed an artistic temperament. He came into contact with Camille Pissarro and the Impressionists.
He devoted himself entirely to painting in 1880 and resigned his position at the bank. He distanced himself from the Impressionists in 1886 and went to Pont-Aven in Brittany, where he met Émile Bernard and Paul Sérusier. He met Vincent van Gogh in Paris the same year. After a stay in Panama and Martinique, he returned to Pont-Aven in 1888, where he found his own expressive style. Some of his most famous works date from this time, such as Bonjour Monsieur Gauguin, Jacob's struggle with the angel, The Yellow Christ and Golgotha.
Gauguin joined the Symbolist writers Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine in 1890, and went to Tahiti in 1891. He was taken by the strong colors, the simple form of expression and the uncomplicated life, and a number of significant paintings were created. His depictions of women from this time have a rare power and compositional clarity. Due to a lack of money, he returned home in 1893, but already traveled back to Tahiti in 1895.
Gauguin became seriously ill in 1896, lost his favorite daughter Aline, and the following year he attempted to take his own life. He began work on his major work, D'où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous? (Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?), a symbolist picture of large dimensions, which was completed in 1898.