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Gedo, J.E. (1994). The Inner World of Paul Gauguin. Ann. Psychoanal., 22:61-109.

(1994). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 22:61-109

The Inner World of Paul Gauguin

John E. Gedo

The quartet of interrelated essays that follows is intended to describe the psychological vicissitudes of Paul Gauguin in the last several years of his life, when the loss of his favorite daughter and a life-threatening illness undermined the adaptation that had characterized him throughout his adulthood. In a previous effort to examine the wellsprings of Gauguin's creativity (Gedo, 1983, pp. 129–160), I asserted that, although Gauguin suffered from a number of maladaptive characterological traits, he succeeded in safeguarding his creativity, albeit at the cost of occasional ruthless or masochistic enactments. I also hypothesized that his ruthlessness permitted Gauguin to devise his greatest contribution to painting, the arbitrary use of color to express his conception of ideal form; per contra, the artist also succeeded in keeping his most pressing psychological problems out of the narrative content of his paintings.

In the present essay I attempt to use the subject matter of numerous works of Gauguin, in all media including literature, as associative material that helps to illuminate his biography. Although rendering the narrative content of visual materials into discursive language is a species of interpretation, I nowhere intend to offer explications art that pretend to completeness—the entire thrust of this effort is in the opposite direction, to increase our understanding of Gauguin's inner life. I am convinced that only such insight will eventually enable our successors to decipher the obscure psychological meanings of the artist's immense oeuvre.

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