One significant element to Gauguin's paintings were colour, much of his influence on future artists was the way in which colour can be seen by some to be as important as form. This had never been the case before. Paul's friendship with Vincent van Gogh, and the two-way artistic influence that came about because of it, is underlined by much of the work displayed in this section. The artworks selected serve as a summary as to the artist's achievements and signature style. The elongation of form was made famous by the works of El Greco earlier, and later Salvador Dali. Gauguin again uses this method to create abstract forms of his models. Amedeo Modigliani used a similar idea with his own series of portraits.
The Primitivism art movement links to pre-western society and encompasses all manner of cultures from around the globe. Fellow self-taught artist, Henri Rousseau, was one member of this group and there are similarites between his and Gauguin's style. There is significance agreement that the work of post-impressionists like Van Gogh and Gauguin was key to the formation of later art movements, such as Fauvism, Cubism and Orphism. It is fair to conclude then, that without them there may not have been a Picasso, Gris or Braque. In comparison to his housemate in Arles, Paul had built a successful career outside of the art world and was able to see his own work purely as a hobby and passion. This enabled him to maximise his creativity and experimentation, never having to pander to the needs of the mainstream.
The artist would study the changes occurring elsewhere in the French art world and would sometimes fuse some of these developments into his own work. There was considerable work completed in the theory of colour, for example, and he would take note of this as the style of his paintings changed over time. The artist would also travel frequently, both domestically around France but also much further afield. The experiences that he had whilst doing so would undoubtably impact his work, both in terms of content but also style. Symbolism would start to creep into his work, as did scenes of a religious nature. His time in French Polynesia would herald a large body of work in which he started to understood how a different culture could have an entirely different relationship with the natural world. He became passionate about the region and his own paintings helped to teach westerners more about their way of life. In essence, his work would become a reflection of humanity, religion and nature.
Most today remember him best for his scenes of life in Tahiti, but actually his earlier work varied greatily from this and provides a contemporary view of French life. It was perhaps the bright tones of the Pacific region that suited his modern approach to art, as well as his new understanding of how colours complement each other. He produced huge numbers of portraits, typically of just a few figures within each work. There were also many landscape paintings as well, though in a style that pushed on from the work of the Impressionists in order to flood expression even more so into each painting. Gauguin seemed curious about the lives of ordinary people, be it in France or anywhere else and also featured children more frequently than most male artists would normally do. Women as well featured much more frequently than men, allowing his oeuvre to work against social norms in several different ways. Gauguin's paintings remain a strong influence on many artists today, a good century after his career took hold and his relationship with Van Gogh also offers many an alternative route into this highly imaginative artist's career.