Although French post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin could hardly be described as a family man, his absence from the domestic scene didn’t prevent him, and his work, from influencing his children. Gauguin had five children with his wife Mette-Sophie Gad, as well as numerous children by his various mistresses around the world. In this post we’re going to take a closer look at the lives of some of the more artistically minded offspring from the Gauguin brood.
First of all we’ve got the five children that Gauguin fathered over the course of ten years between 1874 and 1883 with his Danish wife Mette - Emile, Aline, Clovis, Jean René and Paul Rollon. Of these children it is perhaps Jean René who achieved the greatest level of success and recognition in his career as an artist. The last time he saw his father was when he was ten years old, prior to Gauguin’s departure for Tahiti. Contact in the previous years had been intermittent and communication had been problematic, with Gauguin unable to speak Danish and his children unable to speak French.
Jean René, like his father, trained as a sailor, also being apprenticed as a carpenter for a short time, but it was in 1904 that his life would change. His father had died in French Polynesia in 1903 and Jean René inherited three of his father’s paintings, which he promptly sold. Using the funds from the sale of the works, he embarked on a trip around Europe, visiting museums and monuments wherever he went. As a result of this trip he began a career as an artist, focusing on ceramics and sculpture from 1910 until his death in 1961. At the 1924 Paris Summer Olympics, at a time when art competitions were still an Olympic event, he won a bronze medal for his sculpture, Boxer (1922). Companies in Austria, Copenhagen and Paris worked in conjunction with him to produce his ceramic pieces, and his sculptures and statues can be found throughout France.
Throughout his life he insisted that having the Gauguin family name had been a hindrance to his career, and that it had been a barrier to museums and art critics accepting his work on its own merit. Jean René’s younger brother Paul Rollon, more commonly known as Pola, also went on to become a painter, art critic and noted Gauguin biographer, writing and publishing the memoir My Father, Paul Gauguin in 1937. He lived much of his life in Norway and five of his paintings are still held at the National Gallery of Norway in Oslo.
Then there are the artistic children that he fathered with his mistresses. Germaine Chardon was born in 1891 from Gauguin’s relationship with Juliette Huais, and went on to become a renowned Belgian painter. And of course there was Emile Marae a Tai who was born in 1899 from Gauguin’s relationship with his Tahitian child bride Pau’ura. Emile Marae a Tai grew up in Tahiti illiterate, but was brought to Chicago by a French journalist in 1963, and went on to become an artist of note. He may not have spent any time with them when he was alive, but whether he was helping them or hindering them, Paul Gauguin’s influence over his children extended from beyond the grave.