I accidentally clicked on a Wikipedia citation to read in the Guardian a 2001 book review of Paul Gauguin, An Erotic Life by Nancy Mowll Mathews. The correspondent said, “The most exhaustive study ever of Gauguin’s life has revealed a brutal man who falsely cast himself as a creature of exotic sexuality, a defender of women’s rights and a bastion of socialist ideals.”

Emile Gauguin (the artist's son, as a child) Paul Gauguin 1877-78

Emile Gauguin (the artist’s son, as a child) Paul Gauguin 1877-78

The rest of the book report is a summary of the salacious and scandalous horror that was Gauguin’s life. Fortunately, I found an independent review on Good Reads which finds some redeeming qualities inherent in this most exhaustive study ever. Conclusion:

Not only are his major works critically examined by Mathews, they’re presented in color on these glossy pages, making this a physically beautiful book as well as an informative one. While I wasn’t sure of the Freudian approach to Gauguin, I found this a hugely satisfying biography. It makes Gauguin fascinating.

There is a Paul Gauguin sub-category called Breton period (1886 – 1890) on WikiPaintings. I imagine there would be a critically examined painting from this period in the book.

This paragraph is where I jump back in time roughly 15 years earlier on Gauguin’s Wiki page. He was a successful stockbroker in Paris, marries a Danish woman named Mette-Sophie Gad (who he will have five children with over the next 10 years) and paints in his spare time.  They live in a neighborhood where (hipster) Impressionists frequented local cafés . He goes to (hipster) galleries and buys some of their (hipster) work. Gauguin befriends Camille Pissarro who becomes his mentor, and introduces him to other Impressionists like Paul Cézanne. 

I did not know Gauguin was a sculptor, too.  A sculpture of his son, Emile, was the only sculpture in the 4th Impressionist Exhibition of 1879. Then he showed paintings in the Impressionist Exhibitions of 1881 and 1882.

Now I’m at the artist colony at Pont-Aven, Brittainy, “Pont-Aven is mainly known because of the group of artists who flocked round Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin…They were collectively known as Pont-Aven School.”

Le moulin David, Paul Gauguin 1894

Le moulin David, Paul Gauguin 1894

If you switch over to Bernard’s Wiki page it claims:

In August 1886, Bernard met Gauguin in Pont-Aven. In this brief meeting, they exchanged little about art, but looked forward to meeting again. Bernard said, looking back on that time, that “my own talent was already fully developed.” He believed that his style did play a considerable part in the development of Gauguin’s mature style.

Gauguin had already been painting with Pissarro (and sometimes Cezanne) in Pont-Aven during summer holidays a few years before meeting Bernard, as the above painting (1894) would indicate. I am not sure that Bernard played a “considerable part in the development of Gauguin’s mature style,” but he did have some influence.

Bernard theorized a style of painting with bold forms separated by dark contours which became known as cloisonnism. His work showed geometric tendencies which hinted at influences of Paul Cézanne, and he collaborated with Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh.


NOTE:  After all that, I have no idea where I’ll be on the next blog post…

UPDATE:  Obviously, 1886 is earlier than 1894, which explains the “strike” above.