Happy Birthday Paul Gauguin!

Happy Birthday to Paul Gauguin born in Paris on June 7, 1848! Around 1895, after a series of setbacks late in his life, Gauguin bid farewell and sought exile from his European upbringing and career. He wrote, “I would be able to end my days free and at peace with no thought for tomorrow and without having to battle endlessly against idiots. Farewell painting, except as a distraction.” He arrived in Papeete, French Polynesia in 1895 where, luckily for us, he in fact did not bid a final farewell to painting. Seeking even further isolation from European influence, Gauguin left Papeete in 1901 for the island of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas.

Paul Gauguin, The Call, 1902. Oil on fabric, Framed - h:160.50 w:119.00 d:9.50 cm (h:63 3/16 w:46 13/16 d:3 11/16 inches) Unframed - h:131.30 w:89.50 cm (h:51 11/16 w:35 3/16 inches). Gift of the Hanna Fund.

Gauguin painted The Call in the Marquesas in 1902. Like many works from this period of exile, The Call can be interpreted as an examination of the mysteries of life and death (while in Papeete, Gauguin unsuccessfully attempted suicide with arsenic poisoning). The image, featuring two women standing barefoot in a remote Polynesian locale, is mysterious and dreamlike, perhaps fulfilling Gauguin’s desire to create art with only memory and imagination. To whom or to what is the woman gesturing? Is it a response to a call to a place of primitive tranquility? Perhaps to a call from fate or destiny? This ambiguity embodies Gauguin’s quasi-symbolist approach that tended to reject clarity and fact in favor of feeling, suggestion and evocation for the expression of ideas and emotions.  

 (Reference: Oxford Art Online)

Guest Author

Benjamin Francisco

The Cleveland Museum of Art

Benjamin Francisco is a Cello Performance major at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, and an intern in the Communications and Marketing Department at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

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