Gauguin - Not your typical career path

One thing all of us can say for certain is the economy is bad.  More people are out of work than ever and even though the government promises it will get better it can be hard to believe at times.  But good can come out of this kind of hardship.  Families become stronger and people learn the value of helping others.  And from time to time failure can even lead to success.  Such was the case with Gauguin.

You may not know this but Gauguin had a very extraordinary career path.  When he was a young man his first foray into the working world began with the navy.  He journeyed across the sea several times before he returned to Europe and married.  He had a few kids and settled into a job as a stock broker.  On the weekends he would meet up with some of the local artists like Camille Pissarro and relax by painting.  Art was something he enjoyed but he was never more than a “Sunday painter”.

Then in 1882 the stock market crashed and there was a recession.  Gauguin lost his job and found himself broke.  Without a job he had more time to paint and so he said goodbye to the business world and became the artistic visionary we know today.

Gauguin hasn’t been the only one to steer an atypical career path.  Many celebrities and famous artists held unusual jobs before they found success.

  • Henri Matisse was a court administrator until he came down with appendicitis.  His mother bought him art supplies to keep him busy during his recovery and this was the catalyst to his legendary career.
  • Rene Magritte spent his youth working in a wallpaper factory.
  • Ellen Degeneres worked in a glove factory, washed cars and was a court runner for a law firm before her big break.
  • Before Jerry Seinfeld told jokes he sold light bulbs.
  • Manet chose to paint after he failed the exam to join the Navy.
  • Henri Rousseau was a government employee where he worked in the toll collector’s office as a tax collector.
  • One of David Letterman’s first jobs was working as a stock boy at a grocery store.
  • Rodin was rejected from entering art school, so he spent 20 years as a craftsman and ornamentor producing decorative objects and architectural embellishments.
  • Madonna made sure people got their sugar fix at Dunkin’ Donuts.
  • Andy Warhol started out drawing shoe advertisements and designing album covers.

So, if you find yourself discouraged just think of Gauguin.  You can see the result of the formative year in his artistic career at our current exhibition, Gauguin: Paris, 1889, on view through January 18, 2010.  Gauguin’s atypical career path is an inspiration to anyone facing decisions that may seem risky but in the end may pay off.


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