He had designs on becoming a painter, however his inclinations turned him in the direction of poetry, and these ambitions were furthered on meeting Victor Hugo. He also received assistance from Honore de Balzac, who gave him work at the Chronique de Paris.
Gautier, along with the poets Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire and a doctor, Jacques-Joseph Moreau, founded a club dedicated to experimentation with drugs, principally hashish, called the Club des Hashischins. In an article published in Revue des Deux Mondes in 1846, Gautier detailed their experiments.
He made a living from journalism although he found the work 'humiliating'; he sought and found escape in travel and poetry. He is remembered for the quote: "Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality."