Gauguin: Where he lived and loved

Gauguin: Where he lived and loved
Here I am again, tracking Gauguin…this time in Paris before he traveled to Brittany, Martinique, and Tahiti. Before Gauguin became the Gauguin most of the world knows.   On this walk you’ll see he was not only born in Paris, but also lived and worked here in many locations throughout the city as a young man and, later, as the anguished artist we’re familiar with. Hindsight tells us he neither favored the right or the left bank—but this itinerary focuses on his experiences in the right bank where he was born, married, baptized his children, and eventually lived destitute with his young son, Clovis, away from his wife, Mette.   We see where he fell in love with Mette and where they lived as a young couple, madly in love, and then later as a quarreling, unhappy pair. Many of the vignettes included in this walk are derived from his personal letters. He’s a great letter writer, sometimes flattering to the point of manipulation, sometimes delegating errands to friends, sometimes sad, and always seeking something else. He even dares to parent during his long, eternal absence via letters, dictating to Mette exactly how to handle the children. Again, I’ve added photos to help guide your way. Some were taken in bright sunlight and others, well….I’ll reshoot them my next trip to Paris. Today’s Itinerary: 9th Arrondissement56, rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette (Birthplace of Paul Gauguin)5, rue Henri-Monnier (House of Gauguin’s guardian, Gustave Arosa)15, rue La Bruyère (Gauguin’s bachelor apartment)28, place St-Georges (Gauguin and Mette’s first home) 16th Arrondissement30, rue de Chaillot (The couple’s second apartment) 10th Arrondissement10, rue Cail (Gauguin and Clovis’ apartment) Directions: We begin this walk at métro place Blanche. Looking away from the butte of Montmartre, locate rue Fontaine, traveling downhill. Stay on rue Fontaine two blocks until you reach the crossroad of rue Pigalle. Cross rue Pigalle and the street now becomes rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. As you walk along, on your left, at number 56, is Paul Gauguin’s birthplace. Look for the plaque tucked almost imperceptibly between two decorative entablatures that announces “Paul Gauguin, French painter, sculptor, and writer, died at Atuana (Marquesas) on 8 May 1903 and was born in this house on 7 June 1848.”   56, rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette (Birthplace of Paul Gauguin)Paris placed this biographical plaque on the facade during the 1948 centenary of his birth. At that time few people in the neighborhood knew the building’s history and during the ceremony many were confused about exactly who was being honored. One of the speakers recalled a former critic who’d remarked that Gauguin’s art had “everything against it—women, collectors, museums,” and then noted “Today, museums and collectors are proud to possess even the smallest of Gauguin’s works.” He pointed out that women, to be fashionable, had “begun to powder their faces with the ochre with which Gauguin painted the flesh of his Tahitians.” Gauguin was the second child, after a daughter Marie, born to Clovis Gauguin, a journalist, and Aline, daughter of the renowned feminist and activist, Flora Tristan. On 8 August 1849, drowning in an unfavorable political climate, the young family set sail for Peru to live with Aline’s somewhat wealthy relatives in Lima. Sadly, en route, Clovis died of an aneurysm, and was buried at Port-Famine in the Straits of Magellan. The anguished family continued to Peru and eventually returned to France in 1855, settling first in Orléans, again living with relatives. After a few silent moments, take time to look at the building to the immediate left. I love this next factoid. When Gauguin was born here, Delacroix, the great French painter, lived and maintained a studio right next-door, #58. Delacroix, on one of his many outings, probably passed by the baby Gauguin, unaware he was to become one of France’s future celebrated artists. This is what makes Paris so fascinating to me: uncovering these scintillating and obscure connections among its great personages and sharing this information with readers like you.   Directions: Continue downhill until you reach, on the left-hand side, rue Henri-Monnier (going uphill). Turn left onto Henri-Monnier and in just a short way, on your right, you’ll reach the pleasant Place Gustave-Toudouze, with many places to sit and even catch a bite to eat. Directly opposite the place, locate #5. This is the site where Gauguin’s mother’s good friend, Gustave Arosa, lived.   5, rue Henri-Monnier, formerly rue Breda (House of Gustave Arosa)Few people know about Gustave Arosa and the impact he made on Gauguin’s life. A wealthy Spaniard, he befriended Gauguin’s mother, a seamstress, who’d moved to 33, rue de la Chaussée d’Antin and became Gauguin’s legal guardian in 1865, a year before his mother died. Arosa was wealthy, had a collection of Peruvian art, and even began collecting works by newer artists such as Pissarro. Gauguin, therefore, grew up around an affluent, cultured man, interested in the arts. Interestingly, in light of Gauguin’s future travels, the Arosa’s would vacation in Brittany and Gustave’s brother took a trip around the world, stopping at Tahiti and Hivaoa to sketch the sites. They even played a part in introducing Gauguin to his future wife, Mette Gad, from Copenhagen, who’d been staying at a pension owned by a friend of Arosa’s wife. And later, while dating, the Arosa’s hosted a Mardi Gras ball and Gauguin designed crepe-paper costumes–he was a soldier, Mette, a little girl. Others arrived festively dressed as fans, chandeliers, and bottles of champagne. When Arosa lived on this street, he was known to have had a comfortable, “charming old house.” Directions: Turn around, and retrace your steps to rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. Turn left, and then take the very first right onto rue La Bruyère. Walk along this street, again not that far, and on your left, look for #15, with ultra-decorative balconies. It is here Gauguin lived as a bachelor.  
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