This was an artist who loved to work whenever and wherever he could. Even when living in Tahiti and other remote areas, he always could rely on being able to access the simple tools needed to complete quick sketches. He would, however, sometimes be short of what he needed to produce paintings or sketches, such as when accidents or incidents shut off supplies for months on end. Although his life as a father was far from stable, portraits such as this show off his paternal emotions and clearly he held a deep love for his young son. In later years the artist would move abroad, far from French society by choice, and at that point he would start to sketch portraits of all manner of different individuals from these alternative cultures.
Emil is very smartly dressed in this example, with a collared shirt which Gauguin features down to around the shoulder line. His son has the same pursed lip expression that appears in several of these portraits and again he looks directly at us. His hair is long and informally styled, typical of parents who just allow their children's hair to grow naturally until they reach a certain age.
Head to the Cleveland Museum of Art to find a selection of this artist's drawings, many of which include the image of his son within them. He chose not to go into too much detail, but just quickly practice his skills and also to produce another visual memory of his son at a young age. Essentually, he was looking to replace the function of photography as we now use it by relying on his own abilities as a draughtsman. A simple application of black crayon was used throughout this series of drawings and he would concentrate on the clothing and a suggestion of shadow. Items such as these also help us to learn more about the artist's relationship with his children, which otherwise would be hard to understand, with little documentation available. We know much more about his relationship with his wife, for example, because of events in their lives, and also various comments made within written correspondence.