Today Gauguin is recognized as a highly influential founding father of modern art. He rejected the tradition of western naturalism, using nature as a starting point from which to abstract figures and symbols. He stressed linear patterns and remarkable color harmonies, imbuing his paintings with a profound sense of mystery. He revived the art of woodcutting with his free and daring knife work and his expressive, irregular shapes and strong contrasts. He produced some fine lithographs and a number of pottery pieces.
There are major examples of Gauguin's work in the United States, including The Day of the God (Art Inst., Chicago), Ia Orana Maria (1891; Metropolitan Mus.), By the Sea (1892; National Gall. of Art, Washington, D.C.), and his masterpiece Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? (1897; Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston). Somerset Maugham's Moon and Sixpence (1919), based loosely on the life of Gauguin, did much to promote the Gauguin legend that arose shortly after his death.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.