Paul Gauguin was born in Paris in 1848. Due to political unrest in France, his family made the voyage to Peru where Guaguin lived from 1851 to 1855. Upon returning to France, he worked as a stockbroker’s clerk in Paris. Inspired by an exhibition of Impressionist paintings, Gauguin began to paint as a hobby in 1871. With a solid job as a banker, he married Mette Gad in 1873 and they had five children. He began collecting works by Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and other Impressionist painters, yet his own artistic endeavors were restricted to his free time on the weekends.
He attended classes at the Colarossi Academy, assisted and influenced by Cezanne and Pissarro. In 1876, one of Gauguin’s landscape paintings was accepted into the Salon d’Automne. He gave up his life as a stockbroker at the age of 35 and moved from Paris to Rouen. One year later, Gauguin separated from his wife and left his five children to live his life as a painter and printmaker.
He traveled to Panama in 1887 to work on the Panama Canal project, but was dismissed after only two weeks of labor. His antipathy developing for the Western civilization, Gauguin traveled to Martinique, settling afterwards in Pont-Aven.
In 1891, Gauguin was able to sell about 30 paintings, among his clients, Edgar Degas. With the profits from these sales, he sailed to Tahiti on the South Sea, living in Papeete for two years under primitive conditions. After two years in Tahiti, Gauguin returned to France briefly, only to sail back to the South Sea in 1894.
His admiration for primitive and exotic art led to his interest in woodcuts as an intriguing printmaking technique. Gauguin planned to publish a book called “Noa Noa”about his experiences in Tahiti. The book never came to print, but Gauguin made a set of ten color woodcuts meant as illustrations. His largest woodblock, “Manao tupapau” was created after the “Noa Noa” series. In addition, Gauguin also produced some thirty more woodcuts, which were mostly monotypes.
The last five years of his life were spent in bad health and great poverty, until his death in 1903 on the Marquesas Islands.