The son of a French journalist and a woman from Peru, Paul Gauguin spent his early childhood in Peru, and later was a merchant seaman before becoming a stockbroker's assistant in 1871. Gauguin did not like the work, but it paid the bills. He had married and settled down in 1873, and it was not until ten years later that Gauguin decided to give up the business world and devote himself to more artistic pursuits. He spent time in Rouen where he stayed with Pissarro who had encouraged him. The restless Gauguin then went to Copenhagen with his Danish wife only to leave his family forever a few months later. Gauguin was then past thirty-five and almost penniless, though a loan from Degas permitted him to go to Pont-Aven where he worked with Emile Bernard and developed a new style. Abandoning his earlier Impressionism, Gauguin painted in this manner and also made ceramics and wood carvings to earn some money. In 1887 Gauguin made an unsuccessful trip to Martinique in his search for a primitive way of life and to escape the oppression he felt. He spent 1888 in Arles with Van Gogh. This ill fated adventure ended in near tragedy as Van Gogh began exhibiting signs of madness. Gauguin returned shortly to Brittany before leaving for Tahiti on his constant quest for the simple life and the peace of mind he would never really find. Gauguin remained in Tahiti until 1893, when ill health and lack of funds forced him back to Paris. He remained there until 1895 when he again returned to Tahiti. His stay there ended in 1901 when seriously ill with syphilis and in trouble with the French authorities. He moved to the Marquesas, seeking an easier and cheaper life. Gauguin never found his island paradise. He was dismayed that he found authorities everywhere, even in ‘paradise’. His health, declined still further but he continued to paint until he died on May 8, 1903.
Gauguin attempted to escape his problems, but failed to do so. People today try the same thing. However, you cannot run away from your problems whether you use an airplane, car, or one horse buggy. Be like the water that overcomes the obstacle by flowing around it. Be the lotus that rises out of the mud and puts its head above water.