National Gallery of Art, Washington/Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

“Landscape at Le Pouldu,” Gauguin’s idyllic “earthly paradise.” The rhythm of repeated, interlocking shapes of soothing browns, blues and greens expresses the bucolic life of the Breton peasant.

Gauguin retired to this remote Breton village after his tempestuous months with Van Gogh in Arles. He painted “Self-Portrait With a Halo” on the cupboard door in the dining room of the village inn where he lived with a small community of artist-disciples.

Wanderlust and financial hardship led Gauguin to seek another earthly paradise in the South Seas. In May 1890 he invited Van Gogh see to go with him to Madagascar to establish a “studio in the Tropics” much like Van Gogh’s failed community of artists, the “studio in the south.” After Van Gogh’s suicide in July, Gauguin set his sights for Tahiti. His peaceful paradise continued to elude him and, like Van Gogh, he attempted suicide, though unsuccessfully, in 1898. He died on May 9, 1903, of cardiac failure, or possibly from an overdose of morphine, in his “House of Pleasure,” which he built on Hivaoa in the Marquesas Islands.