About Famous Artists

Art Discussion, Art History, Famous Artists

Paul Gauguin and Mette Sophie Gad

Mette Sophie Gad was born in Denmark on September 7, 1850.  Her father, Theodor Gad, was the judge of an outlying Danish island where Mette was born.  At 17 years old, Mette became a governess to the children of the Danish Minister of State and three years later was a traveling companion for Marie Heegaard, the daughter of a wealthy factory owner.  In October 1872, the travelers arrived in Paris where Mette encountered Paul Gauguin.  During this time Gauguin was in Paris working as a bookkeeper at a financial brokerage firm and making a decent standard of living.  While at the firm he began to paint part-time.  In January of 1873 the two became engaged and on November 22, 1873, at the age of 25, Paul Gauguin married Mette-Sophie Gad in a Lutheran church in the Rue Chauchat in Paris.

In August of 1874, Mette and Gauguin had their first child, Emile.  In 1877, Gauguin quit the firm and got a job at André Bourdon’s bank.  The little family moved to Vaugirard, a suburb south west of Paris and Aline, their only daughter was born.  Another child, Clovis, was born in May of 1879.  Gauguin began collecting contemporary art by Impressionist painters and was invited to show his own work at the 4th Impressionist Exhibition.  Mette and Gauguin were in a great situation, his job was providing a steady income and their family was happy and healthy.  In 1881, another son, Jean- René, was born.

Things began to change in January of 1882 when the French stock market crashed and Gauguin lost most of his money which had been riding on the market.  He decided to turn away from the world of finance and focus full time on his art career.  In December of 1883 yet another son, Paul also known as Pola, was born.  In January of 1884 Gauguin moved Mette and their family away from Paris to Rouen, where the cost of living was lower.  His paintings were selling slowly forcing him to sell pieces of his art collection.  Mette was not content with their situation as she watched their financial stability deteriorate rapidly and the couple frequently argued.

Mette Gauguin

Mette Gauguin

In the summer of 1884, Mette and Gauguin’s children left for Copenhagen to stay with her parents.  Some say Gauguin sent her away, others that the life of poverty had pushed her too far.  In Copenhagen, Mette found a position teaching French to Danish children and returned to Rouen to tell Gauguin.  She also told him that the Danish were interested in Impressionist art and encouraged him to join her in order to sell his art there.  In November of 1884 he reluctantly went and joined Mette, their family and his in-laws, the Gads.  Gauguin took a commission only based job as a tarpaulin salesman.  Mette was the family’s breadwinner and was happy to be home in Copenhagen with her family, but Gauguin was not happy.  He did not know the language and he did not enjoy the job.  The Danes didn’t want French tarpaulins, he found it demeaning and it got in the way of his art.

By June of 1885 Gauguin left for Paris.  Some say he had had enough, others that Mette and her parents kicked him out for renouncing their values.  Either way, this was the end of family life as they knew it.  Gauguin and Mette never again lived as a traditional husband and wife.  Gauguin would write her letters but the remaining 23 years of his life were spent primarily traveling and painting.  A visit in 1891 was his last face to face contact with them.

Paul Gauguin died in Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Island, French Polynesia on May 3, 1903.  Mette Sophie Gad died on September 25, 1920.

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