He becomes a sailor in the French navy, doing his military
service and travelling right up to the Polar Circle.
Disappointed by his experiences, Gauguin ends his naval
career and gets a job at Banque Bertin in Paris, where he works as
an investment advisor while simultaneously speculating successfully
on the Stock Exchange. He starts painting and drawing in his free
time. Gauguin becomes acquainted with Impressionist painting and
attends a private art school, the Colarossi Academy.
Marries Mette-Sophie Gad, a Danish woman who has been
working as a nanny in Paris.
Birth of Emile, the first of the couple’s five children.
Aline (*1877), Clovis (*1879), Jean-René (*1881) und Pola (*1883)
are born in the years that follow. Gauguin gets to know Camille
A painting by Gauguin is accepted for the Salon d’Automne
and he rents a studio in Montparnasse in Paris. He creates his first
Degas and Pissarro invite Gauguin to participate in the
fourth Impressionist exhibition. He continues to speculate
successfully on the Stock Exchange, investing the proceeds in works
by, among others, Pissarro, Manet, Cézanne, Renoir, and Monet.
Gauguin, who is by now working in an insurance agency,
participates in further Impressionist exhibitions. He spends the
summer holidays in Pontoise, where he and Pissarro both paint and
where he also meets Cézanne. He sells some works to the Galerie
Durand-Ruel for the first time.
Gauguin gives up his job as an insurance agent in order to
devote himself completely to painting. The Gauguins’ financial
situation deteriorates and their social decline begins.
Gauguin moves to Rouen with his family in order to live
more cheaply. The hope that his paintings might sell better there is
disappointed and, at Mette’s urging, he and his family move to
Copenhagen to live with her parents. Gauguin works unsuccessfully as
the representative of a linen company.
He has his first exhibition in Copenhagen, which closes
after a few days. Gauguin quarrels with his parents-in-law and,
taking his young son Clovis with him, moves back to Paris, where
they are forced to live in poverty.
In search of a new naturalness, Gauguin moves to Brittany
where he lives and works in the artists’ colony in Pont-Aven. He
creates his first ceramic works during this period. In mid-October
he returns to Paris, where he meets Vincent Van Gogh. He starts
thinking about a journey to the tropics.
Mette takes Clovis back to Copenhagen. In April Gauguin
travels to Panama and Martinique with his friend Charles Laval,
doing several paintings and drawings while he is there. In November
he returns to Paris.
Gauguin spends most of the year in Pont-Aven, working
together with other painters, who acknowledge and admire him as a
teacher. He moves away from Impressionism, developing the innovative
painting style known as “Synthetism”, which leads to his first
distinctive masterpieces. In the autumn, he joins Van Gogh in Arles
in order to work with him there. In December, following their
dramatic quarrel, Gauguin goes back to Paris.
In February Gauguin returns to Brittany, where he stays
until the end of the year, dividing his time between Pont Aven and
Le Pouldu. He creates his first graphic works. In May, during the
World Exhibition, he exhibits some of his works in the Café des arts
Gauguin prepares to auction his paintings in order to
finance his emigration.
The money earned from auctioning his paintings at the Hôtel
Drouot enables him to travel to the South Seas. In March he goes to
Copenhagen to say goodbye to his family. After a farewell party with
his painter friends, Gauguin leaves Paris at the end of March. In
April he sets sail from Marseilles for Tahiti, where he arrives in
June. Together with the young Polynesian woman Teha’amana, he lives
in modest circumstances in the village of Mataiea. Tahiti does not
prove to be the “paradise” Gauguin had yearned for but he
nonetheless creates many of his most important paintings and
In the spring Gauguin suffers a heart attack and has to be
taken to hospital. He sends several pictures to Europe for
exhibitions but his financial situation deteriorates.
Completely penniless, Gauguin persuades the government to
repatriate him free of charge to France, where he arrives in
Marseilles in August. A small legacy enables him to rent an
apartment in Paris. During this period, he creates further important
works, not just paintings and sculptures but also woodcuts. His
exhibition in Henri Durand-Ruel’s gallery is a failure. Together
with Charles Morice, he starts preparing for the publication of his
autobiographical story Noa Noa, which appears in 1897 in La Revue
Gauguin spends most of the year in Brittany. He breaks an
ankle in a fight and has to spend two months in hospital. On
returning to Paris, he discovers that his mistress, a Javanese
dancer called Annah, has ransacked his studio, leaving only his
In February the second auction of his works takes place at
the Hôtel Drouot. The sale is a disaster. Disappointed, Gauguin sets
sail from Marseille in July on his second journey to Polynesia. He
arrives in Tahiti in September and settles on the west coast. He
again creates a large number of masterpieces.
Gauguin lives with a young Tahitian woman called Pauʼura.
In the summer he has to return to hospital, presumably to undergo
treatment for syphilis.
Gauguin’s daughter Aline dies, causing the definitive break
with his wife Mette. Following further heart attacks, he suffers
from increasingly poor health. Gauguin tries to commit suicide by
taking arsenic and is admitted to hospital. He recovers only very
slowly from the after-effects.
To earn money, he takes the position of draughtsman in the
Land Registry in Papeete.
Pau’ura gives birth to their son Emile. Gauguin founds a
satirical monthly entitled Le Sourire and writes for a newspaper.
His support for the cause of the Maori gets him into trouble with
the colonial authorities and the Church.
A contract with the Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard
enables Gauguin to live from his art for the first time.
In search of new inspiration and lower living costs,
Gauguin moves in September to the Marquesas island Hiva Oa, around
1,500 km to the east of Tahiti, where he creates his last major
works. He builds his hut Maison du jouir and again cohabits with a
young woman. Renewed conflict with the colonial authorities follows.
He paints only rarely and becomes increasingly addicted to alcohol.
Gauguin’s poor health makes him think about moving to Spain.
In March Gauguin is sentenced to a fine and imprisonment
for having libelled the government. On May 8, before starting to
serve his sentence, he dies alone in his hut in Atuona. He is buried
the next day in the Catholic cemetery in Hiva Oa.