Why Was Gauguin Considered a Symbolist

1976 Words8 Pages
The essay will begin by defining what the Symbolist style requirements were, before proceeding to ascertain ways that Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) could be considered a Symbolist painter. By introducing some biographical details it will illustrate how some of his ideas were shaped. It will also demonstrate what he was striving to achieve through his paintings and sculptures. As well as his fully documented stays in Brittany and Paris, he was very well travelled; and famously went to Tahiti where he eventually died in penury. Finally the essay will present a conclusion of how it came to the decision that Gauguin was a Symbolist painter, even though he did not think of himself as such. The term Symbolist was initially used in French literature, and during 1880-1910 the styles of Post-Impressionism, Naturalism and Symbolism had overlapped to some extent. Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), the initiator of Symbolist poetry with his publication of Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil) in 1857, believed that art should express thoughts and emotions. The Symbolists felt that nature should not be observed and then reproduced in art; nor should the detailed actions of humans be replicated. They believed it was the artists’ responsibility to evoke the feelings and emotions of the spectator, and by using signs and symbols it would elevate the viewer’s experience. Symbolism was about utilizing the artists’ imaginations by encouraging the use of mysticism, mythology and biblical works, for example, the French Symbolist painter, Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), was well known for his illustrations of biblical and mythological figures (figure 1), and influenced the imaginations of writers such as T S Eliot (1888-1965), and Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). Paul Gauguin was born in Paris and started his working life in the French Navy; he went on to become a successful stockbroker and
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