Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) was a leading French Post-Impressionist artist who was not well appreciated until after his death. His work was influential to the French avant-garde and many modern artists, such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Gauguin’s art became popular after his death and many of his paintings were in the possession of Russian collector Sergei Shchukin.
Paul Gauguin experienced many bouts of depression and at one time attempted suicide. He traveled to Martinique in search of an idyllic landscape and worked as a laborer on the Panama Canal construction; he was dismissed from his job after only two weeks. He also stayed in Taboga Island on the Pacific side of Panama where he painted for a short time. In 1891, Gauguin sailed to French Polynesia to escape European civilization and “everything that is artificial and conventional”.
Paul Gauguin lived on Taboga Island twice when he was out of money working for the French attempt of the Panama Canal. When Gauguin moved on to French Martinique and then Tahiti, most feel that his work was a result of his time spent on Taboga. Painter Charles Laval lived in Taboga (the island of flowers) as well.
The Inter-Oceanic Panama Canal Museum is housed in a fine antique building that was once the Gran Hotel and later the French canal headquarters. This is the best museum in Panama City and a mandatory stop for every traveler. The museum is a study of the Panama isthmus—from pre-Columbian times, to the arrival of the Spanish, to the French and the American canal-building efforts, through the present day.
The museum gives you a good understanding of the Isthmus of Panama as the center of world trade. It also provides (somewhat subjectively) an explanation of the effect of the isthmus and the canal on the Panamanian idiosyncrasy. Historical documents here include the Torrijos-Carter Treaty that turned over control of the international waterway to Panama, multimedia and interactive exhibits, mock-household exhibits of everyday life during the history of the canal, a register of the U.S. Senate votes approving the canal, and a floor of old coins and stamps, including the famous Nicaragua stamp with an erupting volcano that was sent to senators to sway them from choosing that country to build a canal. There are no earthquakes in this area of the country.
This is an impeccable museum, with interpretive information in both Spanish and English and on-site guides who provide excellent bilingual tours. The museum is wheelchair accessible. You can easily spend a full hour here.
- Visiting Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
- Location: Avenida Central at Plaza Independencia, Casco Viejo, San Felipe
- Phone: 228-6231
- Web site: http://www.sinfo.net/pcmuseum
- Admission Prices: $2.00 (£1.00) for adults
- Closed: Closed on national holidays