ArtistArtist Highlight

An Ode to Gauguin and Primitivist Art

Tahitian Landscape by Paul Gauguin

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In our look at painters, illustrators and photographers here at Fine Art America, we feel we have been giving you a hint at some of the masters that the art world has created, both the old masters and the up and coming new artists we feature on our site. While the art we have discussed previously has been truly masterful, some of us long for simpler art. We mean it. For some of us here, the simpler, the better.

There is a long history of primitive art and primitive artists in the United States, as well as in Europe. You may have a primitive artist favorite yourself — we have a lady from the South who is partial to the Louisiana primitive artist Clementine Hunter, for example. However, out of all the primitive artists we have ever seen, none can compare to the mastery of Gauguin for his use of color and simplicity to create powerful primitive art.

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Biography

By all accounts, Jean Paul Gaugin had a difficult childhood. His father was constantly in trouble for his political writings, and was eventually forced to flee the country with his wife and two young children to his wife’s home country of Peru. Gauguin’s immediate family was full of revolutionaries and writers who constantly opposed the government’s they were living under. Gauguin’s father died during the trip from France to Peru, leaving Gauguin’s mother a widow with two young children under 4. Gauguin’s childhood ended with the downfall of his mother’s relatives from power in Peru, which forced her to take the children and return to France. His mother died when he was 19.

After Gauguin had taken jobs at sea, he returned to France and got a job as a stockbroker. He got married, but the marriage failed when he told his wife he wanted to paint full time. He spent the rest of his life painting, but his works did not receive the acclaim the artist has now until after his death at the age of 54 from a suspected drug overdose.

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Works

Gauguin is best known and celebrated today for his primitivist works. He traveled extensively, especially to island nations such as Tahiti, and used the bright, vivid colors of the islands to add to his works for which he is best known. His primitivist use of color and exaggerated body proportions acted as an influence for later artists such as Picasso, and aided White Europeans in their knowledge of other cultures and people of color. His paintings such as “Nevermore” and “The Seed of the Areoi” are breathtaking in their use of form and color, and their representation of people Gauguin met on his travels. Gauguin’s work is not limited to just paintings, he also did sculpture, woodcuts and tracing of pieces along the way.

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If you are not familiar with Gauguin’s work, you should come and visit our Gauguin-inspired artists here. You may find a piece of beauty and color that speaks to you so much, you need to take it home and find it a good spot to live.

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