Gachet studied medicine in Paris and was a regular customer at the Brasserie des Martyrs, where he mingled with Charles Baudelaire, Gustave Courbet, Théodore de Banville and the author Jules Champfleury. An occasional painter, he exhibited at the 1872
Salon; as a collector of engravings, he assembled works by Bresdin and Meyron. He signed his work Paul Van Ryssel
(from 'Rijsel', the Flemish name for Lille).
Gachet formed close ties with Claude Monet and Edgar Degas and was perhaps the first to purchase canvases by Paul Cézanne. He also befriended Edouard Manet and Auguste Renoir and, not least, Vincent van Gogh. In short, Gachet took it upon himself to befriend what were in essence the least understood artists of the day and to take them under his wing, even providing them with accommodation at his house in Auvers-sur-Oise. He can also take at least some credit for introducing these and other artists, notably Cézanne, to the discipline of engraving. Cézanne lived at Auvers for two whole years, between 1872
, and it was during that time, when he painted House of the Hanged Man
( The Suicide's House
), that he abandoned his dark and brooding baroque manner and embarked on his quest to develop a 'modern classicism'. It was Gachet to whom Auguste Renoir entrusted the care of his young friend and model Marie in a bid to cure her tuberculosis. In late May 1890
, when Van Gogh came out of his 'exile' at the asylum at St-Rémy, he was counselled by Camille Pissarro to seek out Gachet who, despite doing his best for his patient, was unable to prevent Van Gogh committing suicide on July 27 of that year. That said, Van Gogh somehow found time to dash off no fewer than about fifty canvases during his two months in Gachet's care, including Mademoiselle Gachet at the Piano
and the Portrait of Dr Gachet in a White Bonnet
, not to mention such masterpieces as Church at Auvers
and Crows in a Wheat-field
. In 1952
Paul Gachet's son donated to the Louvre most of what had meanwhile become one of the most celebrated private collections in the world; it is now in the Musée d'Orsay.