David Sweetman’s Paul Gauguin: A Life is a little hard to come by (must not have sold well). I happened across it in our local library a few years ago and then picked up a used copy from Amazon. I am amazed the book isn’t more widely available as I feel it is one of the more compelling and well-written artist bios I have read.
David Sweetman paints an intimate portrait of the enigmatic 19th century artist who bridged the gap between the formal pre-impressionistic artists and the post-impressionistic symbolists. I enjoyed Gauguin’s story as much as the broader historical context of his life. Here was a man who worked as a sailor and then as a stock-broker who experienced enough success to begin collecting art – a passion which eventually moved him to give up his career and pursue his art obsessively. He faced extraordinary difficulties – he was cast off by his wife, rejected by critics for being too revolutionary and fought constant depression. Eventually Gauguin made his way to the tropics where he created some of his most influential works.
If you are lucky enough to pick up a copy of the book, jump at it. This rare volume would make a great addition to your library. Keep your eye out on this Amazon page for used copies.
Have you Read Any Great Art Books Recently?
I love reading about art history and am always looking for recommendations. Have you read a great book recently? Share your recommendations in the comments below.
I’m glad I reached your post, Jason! Thank you for the recommendation, really love Gauguin’s art but haven’t heard about this book. Going to order it right away right now
Looks like a great read. I love “the moon and sixpence” by Somerset Maugham, which is based on the life of Paul Gauguin – it is a beautiful book and I think due for a re-read also.
This is also a good link: https://youtu.be/p0n6HaLuLm8
I love Perspective!
Check out “Queer Thing, Painting,” forty years in the world of art by Walter Pack, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1938. I was fortunate to come across a used copy in San Francisco.
Correction: Walter Pach
Robert Gombrich’s The Story of Art
Is hands down the best art history book I’ve read because he is thinking about artists from a contemporary view point. The associations that he makes between the the big idea and the context in which it is manifested, is refreshing. Talk about being able to write an artwork description, Gombrich brings in a sociologist’s perspective as well as the historical context of a work of art. I’d say Gombrich is one of the most creative art historians I know of.
The story of an egotistical person who rather than being cast off by his wife, walked out on her and his large family of children, mistreated his friends was known to be a untrustworthy and needed to be considered the greatest or the leader among his circle of artist friends. His unsavory reputation was known even in his own time. I was disappointed to find that someone whose art I’d always admired, was such an unlikable person once I dug into his history.
But think of how boring history would be if everyone was admirable. The history was dramatic and certainly makes one look at his art differently.
The Secret Lives of Sunflowers by Marta Molnar. Dual timelines, one with Van Goghs Sister-in-law and current day in New York…
Well Jason I have not read your book but have read Gauguin by Himself. As much as I liked Mucha I felt Gauguin was a better painter of that period. However in the book Gauguin by himself it is revealed that Gauguin used Mucha’s studio for several months and I could see Mucha’s influence in Gauguin’s new direction. I learned many things from the book. I will have to see if I can find this book of yours or perhaps read it online. Thanks
I wonder if David Sweetman’s A Complete Life has the same content as A Life? Abe Books often has out or print books.