(Paris 1848 – Marquesas Islands 1903)
1848. Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin is born in Paris; son of Clovis Gauguin, a liberal journalist, and Aline Cazal, whose mother was Peruvian.
1849. The family moves to Peru; Clovis dies.
1855. Return to France.
1865. A cadet officer at the Ecole Navale, Gauguin takes ship for South America; it is the first of a series of journeys across the ocean.
1868. Enrolment in the French Navy, as a member of which he will participate in the Franco-Prussian War.
1871. In Paris, the young man works for a stock-broker; thanks to his tutor, Gustave Arosa, he begins to go to art exhibitions and takes up painting as a hobby.
1873. Meets and marries a young Danish woman, Mette Sophie Gad, who will bear him five children.
1874. Enrols at the Académie Colarossi. Comes into contact with Pissarro, a friend of Arosa’s.
1876. Exhibits for the first time at the Paris Salon.
1879. Invited by Pissarro and Degas to take part in the fourth exhibition of Impressionism, where he exhibits a work of sculpture. Thereafter he will participate in all the group’s exhibitions.
1880. Shows work at the fifth exhibition of Impressionism.
1884. In financial straits, he moves with his family to Denmark.
1885. Returns to Paris with his son Clovis.
1886. Takes part in the eighth – and last – exhibition of Impressionism. In June he is at Pont-Aven in Brittany. That November he meets Vincent Van Gogh for the first time, in Paris.
1887. In April leaves for Martinique; but, in ill health and short of funds, he returns to France in November.
1888. In Arles and Brittany, frequents both Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo. Thanks to them he sells a few pictures and pays his debts; but Vincent’s precarious psychological state makes relations difficult. Gauguin leaves for Paris the day after Van Gogh’s desperate gesture of cutting off his own ear.
1889. The artist is in Paris, then exhibits with the Groupe de XX in Brussels. He organises a collective show of the Groupe Impressioniste e Synthètiste at the Café Volpini in Paris. Spends some time at Pont-Aven and Le Pouldu in Brittany.
1890. In Paris he sets about gathering together the money necessary to leave for Tahiti. Vincent Van Gogh dies on 29 July and in November his brother Theo is committed to a hospital for the mentally ill. Gauguin begins to visit Café Voltaire, a haunt of the Symbolists.
1891. An auction of his work is held in February; and in April he can finally leave for Tahiti. In Copenhagen the artist says goodbye to his wife and children, whilst Mallarmé heads the table at a farewell banquet organised at Café Voltaire. After stops at the Seychelles and Australia, he reaches Papeete on 9 June. By Christmas he has already painted twenty-five of his Tahitian pictures and started work on his book Ancien Culte Mahorie.
1893. Ill and penniless, he learns that many of the paintings he had sent to Paris have been sold without any money being forwarded to him. He returns to the French capital. A one-man show opens on 10 November with forty-one Tahitian paintings, three Breton pictures and some works of sculpture; it is a critical success but does not earn the artist much money.
1894. During a fight, he falls and fractures his ankle, which henceforward will cause him great pain. He continues his association with the Symbolists and completes his Ancien Culte Mahorie.
1895. Return to Tahiti.
1896. To counteract the pain caused by his ankle, he begins to take morphine. Finds it impossible to work.
1897. In March Gauguin learns of the death of his daughter Aline. In December he tries to commit suicide.
1899. Has a son, Emile, by his Tahitian lover, Pahura. He contributes to Les Guêpes, a satirical newspaper published on Papeete, and then founds one of his own, Le Sourire.
1900. Becomes chief editor of Les Guêpes. Signs a contract for the dispatch to France of twenty to twenty-four paintings a year for a regular payment of 300 francs a month.
1901. He leaves Tahiti for Hiva Oa, in the Marquesas Islands.
1902. After a brief period of intense artistic activity, Gauguin’s physical and mental state again deteriorates. He writes Racontars de Rapin and Avant et Après. He has another son by another local mistress.
1903. Beset by various problems, including legal ones, his health deteriorates. On 8 May Gauguin dies, perhaps from an overdose of morphine.