These are the 12 most famous paintings by Paul Gauguin. Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), a French post-Impressionist artist, was a key figure in the early 1900s Symbolist art movement. His paintings, featuring their strong colors, dramatic body proportions, and striking contrasts, separated him apart from his contemporaries, opening the way for the Primitivism art movement. In his paintings, he aimed for a primitive depiction of emotional and spiritual states.
Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897)
One of the most famous paintings by Paul Gauguin, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? depicts several humans, animals, and symbolic figures across an island landscape. The three women and baby reflect the beginning of life; the middle group represents adulthood’s routine and everyday life, and the final scene depicts an elderly woman approaching death. This painting is brilliantly colored but an enigmatic work; painted on rough, heavy sackcloth. It is Gauguin’s largest and best painting.
Vision After the Sermon (1888)
This painting depicts a Biblical event in which Jacob wrestles with an angel. The dramatic use of color, shape, and line mirrors Gauguin’s collection of Japanese woodblock prints. “Vision After the Sermon” is a very interesting mix of the aesthetics of primitive art with a subject that is Western European. This is one of the most famous paintings by Paul Gauguin, especially because it is a rare example of a religious painting by the master French Impressionist artiast.
The Yellow Christ (1889)
This painting is a symbolic depiction of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion in 19th-century northern France, seen through the eyes of Breton women gathering in prayer. “The Yellow Christ” is also known as “Le Christ Jaune” in its original French language. The scene is filled with curiosity because the artwork lacks significant emotion.
Self-Portrait with Halo and Snake (1889)
This is a portrait of Gauguin’s head with a halo above it and two apples hanging from the branch of an unknown tree. The extended form of Japanese woodblock prints inspired the painting, which features his face in a caricatured manner. This is a great example of the artist’s use of metaphor to communicate his feelings toward religious doctrine and symbolism.
The Painter of Sunflowers (1888)
This is a painting depicting Vincent Van Gogh’s portrait. He is seated and painting on a canvas, but what he is making is hidden. Vincent is seen from the waist up, holding a painting palette in his left hand and a brush in his right, which is making contact with the canvas. This is more of a portrait of Vincent than a historical document at the time.
Merahi metua no Tehamana (1893)
Merahi metua no Tehamana is a portrait of Tehamana, Gauguin’s wife and a Haitian native. After departing Tahiti, Gauguin created the painting, which was regarded as his farewell to the island. His feelings toward the island and its culture were portrayed in this artwork. Tehamana was one of Gauguin’s best models, and she appeared in a variety of art genres during this time.
Portrait of a Woman in front of a Still life by Cézanne (1890)
This is a painting of an unknown woman sitting in front of Paul Cézanne. There are apples depicted in the background. Impressionism’s focus on the spontaneous and naturalistic representation of light and color was rejected by Gauguin. This painting was created in a Post-Impressionist style and made with oil on canvas.
Self-Portrait in a Hat (1893)
This is a self-portrait of Gauguin wearing a hat. It was among the most significant paintings while he was staying in the Pacific. A yellow and blue sarong hangs, indicating that the artwork is full of exotic ornaments. Gauguin created this lovely masterpiece after he regained confidence and a rebellious attitude.
Night café, Arles (1888)
The Night Cafe, Arles depicts the interiors of Café de la Gare, as well as a portrait of its owner, Madame Ginoux. Roulin, Van Gogh’s postman acquaintance, is depicted in the background. Van Gogh’s artwork of himself interacting with three prostitutes provides evidence. Since Gauguin painted the interiors of the café that Van Gogh had already painted (The Night Cafe), this painting became a rivalry between the two artists.
Vahine no te tiare (Woman with a Flower) (1891)
This is a Tahitian portrait of a model who requested to wear a dress since she was affected by sitting for Gauguin. The dress highlights the effects of European colonization on the native Tahitians. Women were rapidly rejecting the traditional pareo in favor of the less exposed Westernized clothing promoted by Christian missionaries. Gauguin’s ideal lifestyle was ruined by Western influences.
Te aa no areois (The Seed of the Areoi) (1892)
This painting depicts Gauguin’s Tahitian mistress, Tehura, as the goddess Vairaumat, holding a blooming seed as a sign of fertility. His trip to Tahiti was certainly the inspiration for this painting, which incorporates a diverse range of influences from throughout the world. The flat colors and absence of shadows are traditional in Japanese paintings, but the color palette is typical of Gauguin’s work during this period.
When Will You Marry? (1892)
This is also one of the most famous paintings by Paul Gauguin, a painting of a young woman in traditional dress leaning forward on the ground. She is partially hiding a more matronly figure who is dressed in a western-style outfit. With the basic shapes Gauguin used to communicate his concept of primitive art, the style is fairly naive. This is one of the most famous and expensive artworks ever sold.
What famous paintings by Paul Gauguin do you think we should add to this list? Comment below.