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Paul Gauguin Gallery     Prints.     Full biography.
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Gauguin was born in Paris but lived with his mother in Peru (1851-55). In 1871 he entered the firm of a Paris stockbroker. He painted on Sundays. Gauguin met Pissarro in 1875 and initially Gauguin’s work was close to the Impressionists in subject matter and color scheme. He exhibited with the group five times. By 1886 he had abandoned small, visible brush marks in favour of large areas of flat color and introduced an innovative color scheme that suggested a sense of heightened reality. Gauguin called this technique Synthetism and declared that he hoped painting would return to exploring the “interior life of human beings”. Starting in 1883 Gauguin had devoted himself solely to painting. His travels to Brittany in 1886 and, a year later, to Martinique and Panama, had led him to be inspired by primitive arts and he looked for ideas in Buddhist temple sculptures, Japanese prints, medieval tapestries, folk art and the architecture of Breton Churches. His work became concerned with dreams, myths and visions, influenced partly by his time in Tahiti, where he moved in 1891.
Ancestors of Tehamana
Day of the Gods
Haere Mai
Vanilla Grove
Sacred Spring


In the Vanilla Grove, Man and Horse, 1891. Oil on burlap, 28 3/4 x 36 1/4 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser. 78.2514.15.
The artist’s idyllic Tahitian landscapes In the Vanilla Grove, Man and Horse and Haere Mai reveal the contradictions between myth and reality that are inherent to “primitivism.” Both canvases probably depict the area surrounding Mataiea, the small village in which Gauguin settled during the fall of 1891. As richly hued tapestries of flattened forms, they are, however, only evocations of the lush Tahitian terrain, reflecting the simplicity of form sought by the artist during his first visit to the island. Gauguin derived the pose of the man and horse in In the Vanilla Grove not from a scene he found in Tahiti but from a frieze on the quintessential monument of Western culture, the Parthenon. Gauguin painted the phrase “Haere Mai,” which means “Come here!” in Tahitian, onto the other canvas in the lower-right corner, but it does not appear to coincide with the content of the painting. The artist, who spoke little of the native language at that time, often combined disparate Tahitian phrases with images in an effort to evoke the foreign and the mystical. Evidently, this practice was designed to make the paintings more enticing to the Parisian public, who craved intimations of the distant and the exotic.
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