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Paul Gauguin
French painter
(1848-1903)



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Comment voyez-vous cet arbre? Il est bien vert? Mettez donc du vert, le plus beau vert de votre palette; — et cette ombre, plutôt bleue? Ne craignez pas la peindre aussi bleue que possible.
How do you see this tree? Is it really green? Use green, then, the most beautiful green on your palette. And that shadow, rather blue? Don't be afraid to paint it as blue as possible.
-- Said in conversation with Paul Sérusier as quoted by Maurice Denis, "L'influence de Paul Gauguin," in Occident (October 1903) and published in Du symbolisme au classicisme. Théories (1912), ed. Olivier Revault d'Allonnes (Paris, 1964), p. 51

I am leaving in order to have peace and quiet, to be rid of the influence of civilization. I want only to do simple, very simple art, and to be able to do that, I have to immerse myself in virgin nature, see no one but savages, live their life, with no other thought in mind but to render, the way a child would, the concepts formed in my brain and to do this with the aid of nothing but the primitive means of art, the only means that are good and true.
-- Quoted in the interview "Paul Gauguin Discussing His Paintings" by Jules Huret, printed in L'Écho de Paris, 23 February 1891), p. 48

Life at Papeete soon became a burden.

It was Europe, the Europe which I had thought to shake off — and that
under the aggravating circumstances of colonial snobbism, and the
imitation, grotesque even to the point of caricature, of our customs,
fashions, vices, and absurdities of civilization.

Was I to have made this far journey, only to find the very thing which I
had fled?

-- Noa Noa (1893) [Dover, 1985], p. 2

Votre œil bleu du nord regardait attentivement les tableaux pendus aux murs. J’eus comme le pressentiment d’une révolte : tout un choc entre votre civilisation et ma barbarie. Civilisation dont vous souffrez. Barbarie qui est pour moi un rajeunissement.
Your Nordic blue eyes looked attentively at the paintings hanging on the walls. I felt stirrings of rebellion: a whole clash between your civilization and my barbarism. Civilization from which you suffer. Barbarism which for me is a rejuvenation.
-- Letter to August Strindberg (1895-02-05),
The Writings of a Savage: An Anthology of Writing by Gauguin (1990) [Paragon House, ed. Daniel Guérin, trans. Eleanor Levieux], p. 105

As I wanted to suggest a luxuriant and untamed type of nature, a tropical sun that sets aglow everything around it, I was obliged to give my figures a suitable setting.

It is indeed the outdoor life — yet intimate at the same time, in the thickets and the shady streams, these women whispering in an immense palace decorated by nature itself, with all the riches that Tahiti has to offer. This is the reason behind all these fabulous colors, this subdued and silent glow.

"But none of this exists!"

"Oh yes it does, as an equivalent of the grandeur, the depth, the mystery of Tahiti, when you have to express it on a canvas measuring only one square meter."

Very subtle, very knowing in her naïveté is the Tahitian Eve. The riddle hiding in the depth of her childlike eyes is still incommunicable to me.
-- Diverse Choses, notebook (1896 - 1898); translated as: The Writings of a Savage: An Anthology of Writing by Gauguin (1990) [Paragon House, ed. Daniel Guérin, trans. Eleanor Levieux], p. 137


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The selection of the above quotes and the writing of the accompanying notes was performed by the author David Paul Wagner.

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