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French artist Paul Gauguin's bold colors, exaggerated body proportions and stark contrasts helped him achieve broad success in the late 19th century.
In October 1888, two struggling artists joined forces in a tiny yellow house in the South of France. This is the story of the tense friendship between Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin and their "Studio of the South".
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Around this time, Gauguin borrowed from the native culture, as well as his own, to create new, innovative works. In "La Orana Maria," he transformed the Christian figures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus into a Tahitian mother and child. Gauguin made many other works during this time, including a carved sculpture called "Oviri"—a word that originated from the Tahitian word for "savage," although, according to Gauguin,
the sculpted female figure was actually a portrayal of a goddess. Known to have a predilection for young girls, Gauguin became involved with a 13-year-old Tahitian girl, who served as a model for several of his paintings.
In 1893, Gauguin returned to France to show some off his Tahitian pieces. The response to his artwork was mixed, and he failed to sell much. Critics and art buyers didn't know what to make his primitivist style. Before long, Gauguin returned to French Polynesia. He continued to paint during this time, creating one of his later masterpieces—the canvas painting "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?" is Gauguin's depiction of the human life cycle.
In 1901, Gauguin moved to the more remote Marquesas Islands. By this time, his health had been declining; he had experienced several heart attacks, and continued to suffer from his advancing case of syphilis. On May 3, 1903, Gauguin died at his isolated island home, alone. He was nearly out of money at the time—it wasn't until after his death that Gauguin's art began receiving great acclaim, eventually influencing the likes of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.
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