Paul Gauguin was born on June 7, 1848 in Paris, France. He descended from Spanish settlers in South America and spent his early childhood in Lima. After his education in Orléans, France, Gauguin spent six years sailing around the world, first in the Merchant Marine and then in the French Navy. Upon his return to France in 1870, he took a job as a broker's assistant. His guardian, Gustave Arosa, a successful businessman and also art collector, introduced Gauguin to Camille Pissarro in 1875.
During week-days he was a successful stockbroker. His holidays he spent painting with Pissarro and Cezanne. Although his first efforts were clumsy, he made visible progress. By 1884 Gauguin moved with his family to Copenhagen, where he unsuccessfully pursued a business career. He returned to Paris in 1885, driven to paint full-time, leaving his family in Denmark.
Like his friend Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin suffered from depression and at one time attempted suicide. Disappointed with Impressionism, he felt that traditional European painting had become too imitative and lacked symbolic depth. Under the influence of folk art and Japanese prints, Gauguin evolved towards the manner he called 'Cloisonnism'. Image was reduced to areas of pure colour separated by heavy black outlines. Gauguin paid little attention to classical perspective and eliminated subtle gradations of colour.
In 1891, frustrated by lack of recognition at home and financially helpless, he sailed to the Tropics to escape European civilization. He remained first in Tahiti and later in the Marquesas Islands for most of the rest of his life. His works of that period are full of symbolism and compassion towards indigenous inhabitants of the islands.
He died on May 9, 1903. He is buried in the Atuona Cemetery, Atuona, French Polynesia.