Paul Gauguin and the Lure of the Exotic: No Matter Where He Traveled, the Artist Absorbed the Sights and Subjects Encountered There into His Own Unique Vision. (Museum Today)

Article excerpt

PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903), the pioneering French artist who left his family and a career in finance to paint and live like a native in the South Seas, in fact began sailing to far-off lands during childhood. As a boy, he lived for a time with relatives in Peru, and in his teens, while in the merchant marines and military, he visited South America, India, the Black Sea, Mediterranean, and North Sea.

Gauguin believed firmly in his difference, often referring to himself as a "savage." Once he discovered his passion for art, he had to create forms that were original and unique. "What does it matter that I set myself apart from other people?," he wrote. "For most I shall be an enigma, but for a few I shall be a poet."

Thus, Gauguin traveled widely, seeking inspiration for a radical new artistic vision. He tried Brittany, where he worked together with a group of followers. There, Gauguin discovered the wellspring of his art--an intense desire to capture the soul of a native culture. In France, he also painted briefly in Provence in the company of artist Vincent Van Gogh. …