Paul Gauguin lived and worked during the late 19th century. He was a French painter, print-maker, sculptor, ceramicist and writer who worked mostly in a Post-Impressionist and Symbolist style. The art of Gauguin influenced many artists of the following generations, influencing directly the Synthetist style in modern art as well as bringing about a revival of pastoral scenes. Two of Gauguin’s most often painted genres were pastoral scenes and also scenes showing the native peoples of Tahiti amongst other places in the Pacific.
An example of Gauguin’s pastoral scenes is Watering Place. In this classical example of a pastoral portrait we see two cows standing at the banks of a little creek. A man stands nearby watching. The whole scene is painted in the broad, sweeping brushstrokes of the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionists. Light shimmers in the trees in the distance that border a field of gold. A red roofed building sits on a small rise beside the creek. It was these types of pastoral paintings that were very popular at the end of the 18th century. They received a new rise in popularity because of Gauguin. This painting is done in the same tradition as pastoral scenes of a hundred years earlier had been. It is an idealized life of a farmer that we see. All we are shown is the beauty and solitude of living the life of a hardworking farmer, a subject that was very popular with the middle class who have ever suffered from ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ effect.
Another type of painting that Gauguin painted often in his later years was the native peoples and lifestyle of Tahiti and the surrounding islands. One such painting is Gauguin’s Three Tahitian Women. In this painting three women stand in the foreground of the painting dressed brightly colored garments. One has a ring of small white flowers in her hair. Two of the women do not seem to notice the viewer, but a third looks of her shoulder, eyeing someone or something just outside of the painting. The background is indistinct, just a mass of blotchy colors that we cannot make out into any specific shapes or forms. It is an idealized depiction of island life that we see.Gauguin was a very influential artist. His work inspired a new generation of artists and brought the art world to the brink of modern art. Gauguin’s work is much beloved today by artists and the casual art lover alike.