The Many Faces of Paul Gauguin

Gauguin - Vision After the Sermon; Jacob Wrestling with the AngelPaul Gauguin, who painted in oils, producing such marvels as Ta Matete (We Shall not Go to Market Today,) Night Café at Arles, and Vision After the Sermon, did not start out a painter. His first career was a French merchant sailor. This occupation lasted six years. Paul Gauguin the merchant sailor then became Paul Gauguin the banker, and then Paul Gauguin the Parisian stock broker. It was not until 1871 that Gauguin started painting, and then just as a hobby.

What moved Gauguin to start painting was an Impressionist exhibition, although he remained a stockbroker while he dabbled in Impressionism. He married Mette Gad, a Copenhagen native, in 1873. They had five children.

Unlike some of his other struggling artist friends, Gauguin had plenty of money. He purchased works of Manet, Monet and Renoir, painting his own masterpieces such as Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Madeleine Bernard and Two Breton Women on the Road, during his weekend hours. In later years he started evening painting classes at the Colarossi Academy, where his learning was helped immensely by Pissarro and Paul Cezanne. At the age of 28 one of his much-lauded landscape paintings was selected to be hung in the renowned Salon D’Automne.

Paul Gauguin left behind his wealth, his “day job” and his family in 1883, moving to Rouen France. His employer was in financial distress, which may have influenced his decision. His wife and children move to Denmark to live with her parents. Gauguin then concentrated on a much less financially secure life as full time printmaker and painter.

Paul Gauguin died in 1903 in poor health and extreme poverty.

About the Author

Amitai Sasson of is an art world traveler on a mission to seek out the beauty and passion of the art world. As an avid enthusiast of art and oil paintings, he contributes to as Chief editor and writer.