Gauguin @ SAM

Paul Gauguin was a French Post-Impressionist and an important figure in the Symbolist movement. Gauguin worked as a painter, sculptor, print-maker, ceramist and writer. In 1891, Gauguin sailed to Tahiti to escape European civilization and "everything that is artificial and conventional." He returned to Paris in 1893 and published a book about his experiences titled Noa Noa. After suffering from severe depression, Gauguin returned to Tahiti in 1895. He never returned to Paris.


While living in Tahiti, Gauguin painted Fatata te Miti, Ia Orana Maria and other colorful depictions of Tahitian life. He moved to Punaauia in 1897, where he painted Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? He spent the remainder of his life in the Marquesas Islands, returning to France only once, when he painted at Pont-Aven.

Much of his work contains "quasi-religious symbolism and an exoticized view of the inhabitants of Polynesia." He sided with the native peoples, clashing often with colonial authorities, as well as the Catholic Church and prominent religious figures.

Toward the end of his life, sick and suffering from an unhealed injury, Gauguin was charged with libel against the governor for supporting the natives' in a dispute with French colonialists. He was fined 500 francs and sentenced to one month in prison. On May 8th, 1903, just days before he was scheduled to serve his prison sentence, Gauguin died from an overdose of morphine. He was 54 years old.

A wide variety of Gauguin's work is currently on display at the Seattle Art Museum. The exhibit, Gauguin & Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise, will be open through April 29th. Tickets are $20.

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