Saturday May 08, 2010

Price of Freedom

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Gauguin’s World

French painter Paul Gauguin, noted for his “primitive” expression of spiritual and emotional states in his work and his artistic experimentation, died this day in 1903.

Loving, collecting, and selling art before becoming an artist himself is the path taken by one of van Gogh’s contemporaries.

In 1879, at the age of thirty-one, Paul Gauguin was employed as a stockbroker’s agent in Paris earning a respectable yearly income of 30,000 francs (over $100,000 today). Gauguin, a Sunday painter in those days, spent his weekends studying with Camille Pissarro, a French Impressionist painter who suffered financial hardship in pursuing his faith in Impressionism while rejecting the aesthetic tenets conveyed by the Academie des Beaux-Arts.

Not only did Gauguin collect his teacher’s art, he also acted as Pissarro’s representative.

It is clear that Pissarro’s headstrong pupil and colleague, Gauguin, learned his lessons well; he, like his teacher, understood that freedom didn’t mean chaos or anarchy. Freedom meant inventing new rules. Freedom came at a price.

Gauguin went on painting until the end in La Dominque (Hiva Oa), the Marquesas Islands, with no true sense that he would be acknowledged for his vision in his own time, or ever.

Although he felt unappreciated in his lifetime, Gauguin, the master who would become a Post-Impressionist icon, had worked to the end with no salvation in sight—a self-proclaimed martyr to the cause of painting.

Do you have the same commitment to your art?

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