My Love of Color and Gauguin

"Rivertown", detail, 48 x 48", acrylic, Karen Gillis Taylor

Here’s a reason for any artist or quilt maker interested in color to take art history courses. You might just find a painter from the past who has a color sense that resonates within your own soul. Recognize it, absorb it into the “color bank” within your brain, as I like to call it, and draw upon it as you create your own work.

If I had to choose only one painter whose color sense spoke to my heart, I think it might be Paul Gauguin. (Have to remember Bonnard, also, but more about this later. So much for choosing only one!)

Gauguin’s colors are rich, always toned, and rarely pure. Yet his use of complementary colors creates the impact. Where there is orange, there will be a patch of blue nearby. Reds and greens abound. If you see a purple section, don’t be surprised to find a yellow adjacent.

Three Gauguin paintings from Tahiti days and bottom right from France.

Besides the complementary color choices, we find strong range of values from darkest dark to nearly white. He has an interesting blend of areas of color exhibiting subtle gradations while others show completely flat color, devoid of natural lighting shadows. I love that! Makes for a painting of enormous impact in my mind.

"Rowhouses", detail, acrylic painting, 24 x 30", Karen Gillis Taylor

Gauguin’s color sense was evident not just in his Tahitian paintings, but also in the ones created in his native France. Is a color palette innate? Is it created with environmental influences or not? Only the artist can try to answer that. What do you think?

See this website for a great sampling of Paul Gauguin’s paintings:


2 Responses to “My Love of Color and Gauguin”

  1. Doreen Flanagan Says:

    Lovely information , Karen, you have given us a lot for further study and you have opened my eyes to how the artist uses colour, Love and blessings, Doreen


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