Friday Filosophy v.01.27.2023
In Friday Filosophy v.01.27.2023, Ron Slee shares quotes and food for thought from the French artist Gauguin.
Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (7 June 1848 – 8 May 1903) was a French post-Impressionist artist. Unappreciated until after his death, Gauguin is now recognized for his experimental use of color and Synthetist style that were distinct from Impressionism. Toward the end of his life, he spent ten years in French Polynesia. The paintings from this time depict people or landscapes from that region. His work was influential on the French avant-garde and many modern artists, such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, and he is well known for his relationship with Vincent and Theo van Gogh. Gauguin’s art became popular after his death, partially from the efforts of dealer Ambroise Vollard, who organized exhibitions of his work late in his career and assisted in organizing two important posthumous exhibitions in Paris.Gauguin was an important figure in the Symbolist movement as a painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramist, and writer. His expression of the inherent meaning of the subjects in his paintings, under the influence of the cloisonnist style, paved the way for Primitivism and the return to the pastoral. He was also an influential practitioner of wood engraving and woodcuts as art forms.
Gauguin’s idyllic childhood ended abruptly when his family mentors fell from political power during Peruvian civil conflicts in 1854. Aline returned to France with her children, leaving Paul with his paternal grandfather, Guillaume Gauguin, in Orléans. Deprived by the Peruvian Tristan Moscoso clan of a generous annuity arranged by her granduncle, Aline settled in Paris to work as a dressmaker.
In 1871, Gauguin returned to Paris where he secured a job as a stockbroker. A close family friend, Gustave Arosa, got him a job at the Paris Bourse; Gauguin was 23. He became a successful Parisian businessman and remained one for the next 11 years. In 1879 he was earning 30,000 francs a year (about $145,000 in 2019 US dollars) as a stockbroker, and as much again in his dealings in the art market. But in 1882 the Paris stock market crashed and the art market contracted. Gauguin’s earnings deteriorated sharply and he eventually decided to pursue painting full-time.
In 1873, he married a Danish woman, Mette-Sophie Gad (1850–1920). Over the next ten years, they had five children: Émile (1874–1955); Aline (1877–1897); Clovis (1879–1900); Jean René (1881–1961); and Paul Rollon (1883–1961). By 1884, Gauguin had moved with his family to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he pursued a business career as a tarpaulin salesman. It was not a success: He could not speak Danish, and the Danes did not want French tarpaulins. Mette became the chief breadwinner, giving French lessons to trainee diplomats.
His middle-class family and marriage fell apart after 11 years when Gauguin was driven to paint full-time. He returned to Paris in 1885, after his wife and her family asked him to leave because he had renounced the values they shared. Gauguin’s last physical contact with them was in 1891, and Mette eventually broke with him decisively in 1894.
In October 1883, he wrote to Pissarro saying that he had decided to make his living from painting at all costs and asked for his help, which Pissarro at first readily provided. The following January, Gauguin moved with his family to Rouen, where they could live more cheaply and where he thought he had discerned opportunities when visiting Pissarro there the previous summer. However, the venture proved unsuccessful, and by the end of the year Mette and the children moved to Copenhagen, Gauguin following shortly after in November 1884, bringing with him his art collection, which subsequently remained in Copenhagen. Life in Copenhagen proved equally difficult, and their marriage grew strained. At Mette’s urging, supported by her family, Gauguin returned to Paris the following year.
- I shut my eyes in order to see.
- Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge.
- Art requires philosophy, just as philosophy requires art. Otherwise, what would become of beauty?
- Civilization is what makes you sick.
- Art is either plagiarism or revolution.
- Stressing output is the key to improving productivity, while looking to increase activity can result in just the opposite.
- There is always a heavy demand for fresh mediocrity. In every generation the least cultivated taste has the largest appetite.
- We never really know what stupidity is until we have experimented on ourselves.
- Life is hardly more than a fraction of a second. Such a little time to prepare oneself for eternity!
- Life has no meaning unless one lives it with a will, at least to the limit of one’s will. Virtue, good, evil are nothing but words, unless one takes them apart in order to build something with them; they do not win their true meaning until one knows how to apply them.
- The history of modern art is also the history of the progressive loss of art’s audience. Art has increasingly become the concern of the artist and the bafflement of the public.
- Concentrate your strengths against your competitor’s relative weaknesses.
- In art, all who have done something other than their predecessors have merited the epithet of revolutionary; and it is they alone who are masters.
- It is the eye of ignorance that assigns a fixed and unchangeable color to every object; beware of this stumbling block.
The Time is Now