Paul Gauguin (June 7,1848 - May 8,1903) was a Post-Impressionist painter who is best known for painting young Polynesian girls and for being with Vincent van Gogh when he cut his ear off.
Eugéne Henri Paul Gauguin was born in Paris, France, and lived his childhood mainly in Peru, New Orleans, and Paris. After stints in the merchant marine and navy, he became a Parisian stockbroker in 1871. He married Mette Sophie Gad, a Danish woman, in 1873, and they had five children. During this time Gauguin painted as a hobby, visited galleries, and made friends with other artists, such as Pissarro. In 1883 he gave up his job and family to pursue painting full time. Mette and his children moved to her family's home in Copenhagen.
His paintings in this period had the impressionistic traits of simulating reflected light with small strokes using unmixed primary colors. In 1888 moved to Pont-Aven in northwestern France where he began practicing a style he called synthetism with expressive outlines, flat planes, and pure color patterns. A masterpiece from this period is Yellow Christ (1889), which also uses symbolism.
In 1888 Gauguin spent a few months with Vincent van Gogh. Gauguin's arrogant, sarcastic, and proud personality often clashed with van Gogh's open but unstable one. After an argument, tradition holds that van Gogh cut off his own ear with a razor. However, new evidence contends that it was actually Gauguin who cut it off with a sword, and that both men agreed to say it was van Gogh's doing.
By 1891 Gauguin was upset by the lack of recognition for his art and financially broke. He sailed to the islands of French Polynesia to get away from civilization where "everything that is artificial and conventional" existed. It was there that he painted his best-known works, depictions of idealized Polynesian culture done in bright colors and solid outlines. Famous works from this period include Spirit of the Dead Watching (1898) and Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1898).
With his body already weakened by alcohol, Gauguin died alone in his Polynesian home from syphilis and was buried in the Calvary Cemetery, Atuona, Hiva `Oa, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia.