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Paul Gauguin, born in Paris, France, in 1848, was interested in the deep emotions behind a work of art. Along with fellow Post-Impressionists such as Cezanne, who worked to achieve perfect compositions by arranging large slabs of color on the canvas, and Van Gogh, who used thick, swirling brushstrokes, Gauguin's art represented a departure from the light and delicate Impressionist style.

Gauguin was a man who lived his life to the full, his disorderly and non-conformist behaviour intrigued his contemporaries and aroused their disapproval, turning him into a figure of legend amongst them. Only after his passing away did this contribute to a fuller understanding of the artist. His maladjustment to contemporary social traditions, to the ethical and moral norms of the day, was thought to be an enduring sign of a psychopathic disorder. However, the consideration of all the factors that molded his personality (childhood, adolescence, family traditions, and educational process) may give it new meanings, and better enlighten Gauguin's life and artistic ideal.

He spent his childhood in Lima, where the Gauguins had exiled themselves. In the house of his uncle, a Peruvian man of state, he lived an affluent life, in a luxurious and exotic atmosphere. At the age of fifteen, he returned to France, and embarked, first as a sailor, later as a lieutenant, onboard various merchant ships, and traveled to South America, Norway, Denmark, and across the Mediterranean. After his mother's death, he worked as a commercial agent for a Parisian bank. For twelve long years, he lived a conventional bourgeois life, demonstrating ability and skills to run business effectively. He then got married, and his family life was quiet, enjoyable and prosperous. In 1883, suddenly and unexpectedly, he left the Stock Exchange to devote himself entirely to painting. Consequently, the family's revenues diminished rapidly, and so he decided to separate from his wife and children, whom he entrusted to his relatives. On several occasions, he traveled to Bretagne, searching for a genuine source of inspiration, unaltered by conformism or traditionalism. He declared himself a "primitive nature" and, driven along by his wish to break any connection with civilization, Gauguin traveled to the Isle of Martinique, then to the Southern Seas, Tahiti and finally to the French Marquesas Islands, where, seriously ill, he died in 1903.

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