Houses at Vaugirard
Oil on canvas
81.5 x 116 cm
The Sam Spiegel Collection bequeathed to American Friends of the Israel Museum
Accession number: B97.0551
Though born in Paris, Paul Gauguin spent his formative years in Peru. His father having died while the family was en route, Paul and his sister Marie lived with their mother in the home of their great-uncle in Lima for six years, before returning to France in 1855. From age eleven to sixteen his education continued in a Jesuit seminary in Orléans. Subsequently, he spent some seven years at sea, traveling the world, first in the merchant marines and from 1868 in the French navy. Three years later, after his release from the military, he was hired by Paul Bertin, a Parisian stockbroker.
Gauguin’s first forays into painting were made in the early 1870s while he was still a prosperous employee of the Paris stock exchange. Self-taught, he painted on Sundays, at times together with his friend and colleague at work, Claude-Emile Schuffenecker. Once having begun, the desire, indeed the need to paint slowly grew into an obsession.
By the time he created Houses at Vaugirard (1880) Gauguin, married since 1873 and now the father of three children, had begun to enjoy some small recognition as a painter. In 1876 one of his works had been accepted for exhibition at the official Salon. He also took an avid interest in the Impressionists. He followed their activities, saw their exhibitions, collected their works, and became friendly with Pissarro. As a result he was included in the fourth Impressionist exhibition in 1879. The following year he was represented in their fifth showing by seven canvases. It is possible that Houses at Vaugirard was no. 31 in the sixth Impressionist exhibition of 1881, appearing under the title My Landlord’s House.