Paul GAUGUIN (1848-1903)
1887 Gauguin in Martinique
2019 SOLD for $ 8.2M including premium
Gauguin has given up his job as a stockbroker since 1884, but art does not compensate. His financial and family difficulties become critical. He believes finding an Eldorado through the campaign of exalting and deceptive advertisements for the construction of the Panama Canal by the French. With Charles Laval, a young artist whom he had met at Pont-Aven, he leaves in April 1887 for Panama.
Panama does not offer wealth to its workers but rather malaria and yellow fever. The two adventurers are repatriated in June 1887 by a French boat which they leave in Martinique.
In the tropics, Gauguin finds the atmosphere of primordial society that he did not feel enough in Brittany. Due to racial differences, he is no longer handicapped by his brawling and quarreling temperament. He paints the bright colors of the landscape and the rural life.
On May 14 in New York, Sotheby's sells Chemin sous les palmiers, oil on canvas 89 x 60 cm, lot 18 estimated $ 6M. The tweet below is the detail of the top of the image.
After living for five months in a hut in Martinique, Gauguin brings back in France his finally retrieved enthusiasm, along with dysentery and marsh fever. He had developed in the Antilles a theory of painting from imagination that he will try in vain to inculcate to van Gogh.
Painted in 1887, 'Chemin sous les palmiers' encapsulates Paul Gauguin's life-long interest in depicting the unfamiliar. Discover this highlight from #SothebysImpMod Evening Sale on 14 May in #NYC, on offer from The Levy Family Collection: https://t.co/O6aU6VFdGC pic.twitter.com/iZw703xITN— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) April 26, 2019
1888 Study of the Iridescent Spectrum
2018 SOLD for $ 35M including premium
In January 1888 the artist quietly begins his second stay in Pont-Aven. He takes the time to walk on the Wild Coast and observes that the colors of the swell in heavy weather meet his theory.
On May 8 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 6 La Vague, oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm painted by Gauguin in 1888. A strong wave hits a group of high rocks in the open sea. Two bathers flee the tide onto the vermilion beach.
This painting, unusual and perhaps even unique in Gauguin's art, was included in the 1891 auction set up by the artist to finance his departure for Oceania. Its title in the catalog, La Vague (arc-en-ciel), seems enigmatic but provides the key for the interpretation.
There is no sky or rain in this picture. Arc-en-ciel is here the bow-shaped iridescent spectrum on the sea, passing from pale violet to yellow when the prismatic depth of the water decreases while approaching the coast. With a surprising modernism the unreal color of the beach is the ultimate extension of that spectral decomposition.
Gauguin's Vague was purchased in that auction by a collector of Japanese prints probably attracted by the similarity of theme with The Wave by Hokusai. The comparison stops here because the view taken by Gauguin from the top of the cliff has no close-up.
Despite Gauguin's admiration for Degas, the completely off-center position of the two women is secondary in this composition. Their difference of scale in the face of the grandiose nature is however not without relation to the metaphysical questions of the artist.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
1892 Te Poipoi by Gauguin
2007 SOLD for $ 39M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
The colonial atmosphere of Papeete is nothing authentic. Gauguin finally finds in the village of Mataiea the living conditions which he can consider as an unsoiled civilization. He admires the innocent nudity.
Gauguin paints a lot in Mataiea. He is very inspired by the beautiful colors of these shaded landscapes and by the amber skins of the women. He selfishly sees the sexual life as the central theme of his ethnico-mystical exploration. His very young mistress certainly helps this European in exile to understand the exotic traditions.
Te Poipoi, oil on canvas 68 x 92 cm painted in 1892 in the early fall, was sold for $ 39M including premium by Sotheby's on November 7, 2007, lot 18. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Te Poipoi means The morning. The very bright colors painted in solid style anticipate the fauvism. Two women, one crouching in the foreground and the other standing further away, do their ablutions in the blue water. The landscape is made complex by the reflections of trees and foliage.
Nafea Faa Ipoipo?, meaning When shall you get married?, is a genre scene from the same series, showing a woman protecting or presenting a girl. This oil on canvas 101 x 77 cm was sold in private sale in February 2015 to the sister of the Emir of Qatar. The price of $ 300M announced at that time would have claimed a record. After a legal action between the seller and the broker, the price of $ 210M was disclosed in 2019.
1892 The Tropical Peace of Paul Gauguin
2017 SOLD for £ 20.3M including premium
In 1892 in Mataiea, he meets his dream of developing a new art based on a subtle blend between the observation of landscapes and people and an exaggerated imagination of colors that will soon influence Matisse. His ideal landscape is not a topographical reality. His characters and horses are fixed for eternity in a static occupation.
Te Hare (la maison), oil on canvas 73 x 92 cm, is one of these peaceful scenes. This house is the hut that the painter rents in the village. Or not : it does not matter. It is dominated by a tall hibiscus tree. The extreme colors of tree and hills express the tropical moisture.
The rejection of Europe by Gauguin is extremely violent but not final. He returns to France with the intention of showing how his art has evolved. The exhibition of his Tahitian masterpieces by Durand-Ruel in 1894 horrifies Monet, Renoir and Pissarro. In the sale organized in 1895 at Drouot to finance the last exile of Gauguin, Te Hare is acquired by Daniel Halévy, encouraged by the last master who still understood and encouraged the artist, Edgar Degas.
Te Hare was sold in November 7, 1991 by Ader Picard Tajan for FF 52M, a very high price for that time. This painting is estimated £ 12M for sale by Christie's in London on February 28, lot 18. Painted in the same year, Le Vallon, 42 x 67 cm, was sold for £ 6.4M including premium by Christie's on June 21, 2011.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's :
1892 Gauguin in the Enchanted Valley
2011 SOLD 6.4 M£ including premium
This great interpreter of human nature is enchanted by the landscape. This valley surrounded by mountains is his own Montagne Sainte-Victoire, with its collision of colors and the harmony of its lines.
There are indeed Cézannian accents in Gauguin's Vallon, oil on canvas, 42 x 67 cm, for sale by Christie's in London on June 21. Nature is grand but not hostile. Far, very far away, peasants are going to the fields without addressing the presence of the artist.
This painting, which comes directly from the Beyeler estate, is estimated £ 5.5 M. It is shown in the press release shared by AuctionPublicity.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result, £ 6.4 million including premium, has remained close to the lower estimate. No surprise.
1891-1893 Gauguin fled from Europe
2011 SOLD 11.3 M$ including premium
He is not really beside but actually ahead of his time with his paintings showing bold compositions and bright colors and his iconoclastic themes. He also embodies the new taste for primitivism, like the somehow naive philosophers of the eighteenth century who attempted empathy with the "noble savages".
Arriving in Tahiti, he believes finding there the freedom of thought, and also the sexual liberty. The young Tahitian women inspire him. The wooden sculpture for sale by Sotheby's in New York on May 3 dates from this period of euphoria which ends in 1894 by his return to France.
It is the head of a young Tahitian woman with a serene expression, 24 cm high. The artist made for this piece a pair of ear ornaments in boxwood and a necklace of coral and shells in native style with five rows which all remained in place on the statue.
As Modigliani will do after him, Gauguin was able to express in a bust his view of the ideal woman. He will present this so personal work to the daughter of a critic who was not hostile to his art. Today, $ 10M are expected.
The image is shared by Artdaily.
POST SALE COMMENT
The price is high, but no surprise: $ 11.3 million including premium.
(1886) 1893-1895 Vase of Flowers by Gauguin
2018 SOLD for $ 19.4M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The 2006 catalog clearly explained that this work could not have been painted before Gauguin's first departure for Tahiti, in 1891 : the bright red flowers looking like poinsettias which dominate this bouquet are Polynesian.
An inconsistency is a handicap for a work on the art market. This still life returned to the same auction room on May 8, 2018 in the dispersion of the Peggy and David Rockefeller collection. The catalog included a complex but coherent scenario. It was sold for $ 19.4M including premium over a lower estimate of $ 5M, lot 14. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Here is a probable sequence of the transformations of this artwork :
Gauguin started this painting in 1886. He sought to exploit the best in the avant-garde pictorial techniques and wanted to imitate the Still Life with the Fruit Dish by Cézanne, which he owned. In the following year, on his return from Martinique, he added a very small figure of a West Indian woman standing on a column along the right edge of the image.
In 1893 the return from Polynesia goes very badly. Gauguin is forgotten except by a few friends, and the state of his finances is catastrophic. At one point during this tragic stay in France, which lasted until 1895, he wanted to bring together on a painting his most recent conceptions of still life. Times are hard. Rather than using a new canvas, he paints over his original work.
Gauguin was a fervent admirer of Van Gogh's sunflowers. At Arles in 1888. he had painted a portrait of Van Gogh in front of his easel, busy painting these specific flowers.
The inclusion of the poinsettias is perhaps inspired by the very bright colors of Van Gogh's sunflowers. Originally the back wall was dark : traces of blue pigment have been found under the yellow layer. Several shades of yellow had been used by Van Gogh for the background of his Arles sunflowers. The tablecloth also was too dull for his new Polynesian sensibility : he redid it in orange and pink. The incongruous Martinican figure and the obsolete date remained intact.
ca 1895 Still Life of Tropical Fruits
2015 SOLD for £ 11.6M including premium
He found what he expected but his own living conditions were precarious. He pulled away from Papeete too dependent for his concern upon the French administration. In the countryside, he did not accept barter in a village community which had no monetary use. Close to misery, he could not acquire canvases and carved more than he himself had desired. This first stay had lasted two years, from 1891 to 1893.
The second stay began in 1895. He organized it better in order for it to be more sustainable and he worked more conveniently on his mystical themes animated by the figures of the Polynesians.
Gauguin admired the still life by Cézanne. He however executed very few still lifes during his first stay. A composition with fruits and chillies painted in Tahiti in 1892, 32 x 66 cm, was sold for $ 12.4 million including premium by Christie's on November 6, 2007.
A still life of mangos, oil on canvas 30 x 47 cm, was sold for £ 3.6 million including premium by Sotheby's in London on 20 June 2005. It comes back in the same auction room on June 24, lot 11estimated £ 10M.
Undated, this painting was done during the first visit or, more likely, at the beginning of the second in 1895 or 1896. The extensive correspondence left by Gauguin leaves no doubt as to his intention: he practiced still life to keep cool between two mystic quests.
The angular composition is bold like a Cézanne, but the use of strong colors, deliberately exaggerated to reach the splendor while refusing to copy the nature, is similar as in Gauguin's landscapes. The displaying of mangos is a new challenge by the artist to the European civilization. It is not new in his art since he had already chosen this theme during his stay in Martinique in 1887.
1896 Gauguin keeping cool in Tahiti
2017 SOLD for £ 8.4M including premium
In 1882, Paul Gauguin, aged 34, decides to live by and for art. This earned him nine years of brilliant creating activity but often of sordid adventures. Ruined, he moved to Polynesia.
At the end of his stay in Brittany, the Vision of the Sermon (Jacob's Fight with the Angel) (1889) was a social and religious critical comment, one of the most powerful images from the metaphysical art, but also, of course, the expression of his own doubts and anxieties. It was urgent that Gauguin keeps cool.
The Tahitian vahines are not the gullible Breton women of the Sermon, whom they do not know. Their peaceful life, close to nature, provides a boost of inspiration to the artist.
A group of women is shown in the oil on canvas dated 1896 titled Te Arii vahine. The two women in the foreground are nude and quiet. The lot is for sale on June 18 by Galerie Kornfeld in Bern. Its small size, 26 x 32 cm, assigned a reasonable estimate, 2 MCHF.
It is however an important work, one of those which prepared the two masterpieces of the Polynesian period of Gauguin: the calmed metaphysics of Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going? (1897) and the tribute to the women in And the Gold of their Bodies (1901).
2010 POST SALE COMMENT
Excellent result, 5.5 million CHF excluding fees, for this small size painting that I considered outstanding.
The examples of masterpieces of modern art sold outside the channels of multinational groups are rare. This observation reinforces the merit of Galerie Kornfeld. Bravo.
This painting was sold for £ 8.4M including premium over a lower estimate of £ 7M by Sotheby's in London on March 1, 2017, lot 15. I did not catch it before the sale.
1897 The Descent of Gauguin to the Underworld
2019 SOLD for € 9.5M including premium
Disgusted with European civilization, he seeks new roots. He will write a little later that he wanted to commit suicide. He is fiercely committed to the work which he considers as the most important in his career : D'où venons-nous Que sommes-nous Où allons nous, without question mark as if he wanted to persuade himself that he brings the answers. This immense masterpiece, 140 x 375 cm, to read from right to left, stages the three ages of life played by Tahitian characters.
In the same period, he makes eight other paintings, which are not sketches but rather a support to clarify his thinking. The complete set is sent in 1898 for a solo exhibition at the Galerie Ambroise Vollard. Success does not come. This activity is however a point of no return in Gauguin's pictorial art, replacing the picturesque exoticism by an allegorical mysticism.
On December 3 in Paris, Artcurial sells the only one of the nine works still in private hands, lot 15 estimated € 5M. This oil on canvas 73 x 92 cm titled Te Bourao by the artist and dated 1897 has sometimes been named Paysage bleu. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The bourao is the hibiscus of Tahiti, considered as the joint creation of Earth and Paradise. It provides the ornamental flower of young women, worn on the left ear if the girl is married and on the right ear if she is single.
Te Bourao is entirely painted in dark blue and Veronese green, at the limit of readability. This harmony of muted colors is unique in this corpus of nine works. The only human presence is a rider who sneaks up to the top left corner, just where Gauguin will write the title of the final work, D'où venons-nous Que sommes-nous Où allons nous. Blue is a symbol of the afterlife and the bird in the foreground expresses the futility of words.
1899 Maternité by Gauguin
2004 SOLD for $ 39M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
He manages to rebuild a family in Punaauia, a village near Papeete, with a vahine named Pahura, far too young by European standards. The birth of a boy in April 1899 is a moment of great joy.
Gauguin paints maternity scenes, with warm colors. Femmes sur le bord de la mer, later known as Maternité (I), shows a seated young mother breastfeeding her newborn. She is surrounded by two standing women who bring fruit and flowers, symbols of abundance and beauty. Fishermen and a dog complete the atmosphere. This oil on canvas 94 x 72 cm is kept at the Hermitage Museum in Saint-Petersburg.
Maternité (II), limited to the group of women, is therefore a more direct interpretation of the theme of fertility. This oil on burlap 95 x 61 cm was sold for $ 39M including premium by Sotheby's on November 4, 2004, lot 15. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
With Gauguin the mystical interpretation, both religious and anticlerical, is always underlying. For example, a Nativité painted in 1902 stages a larger Polynesian group simulating the Crèche. The head of the baby is adorned with a radiant halo. This oil on canvas 44 x 62 cm was sold for $ 5.9M including premium by Sotheby's on May 5, 2015.
1902 The Idol of the Maison du Jouir
2015 SOLD for $ 31M including premium
Gauguin blamed the Catholics for their hypocritical opposition to sexual freedom and rejoiced about the weaknesses of the prelates. He purchased a piece of land to the local bishop to build his home which he decorated as a temple to pornography under the complacently inscribed name Maison du Jouir (House of orgasm). He bought a young vahine, achieving to generate the total exasperation of the missionaries.
This exiled artist has humor. The best exhibition place in the Maison du Jouir is the door, visible from outside. Around August 1902, Gauguin installs two statues made by him in rosewood in native style. The man, Père Paillard (Father Debauchery), is a caricature of the bishop as a horned devil. The woman, Thérèse, is inspired by the gossip that the servant of the bishop was also his mistress.
On this phallic shaped statue 66 cm high, Thérèse is a nice woman, naked except for a loincloth. With her oversized head increasing her expressive feature, she is a transposition of primitive art to a Western subject. Although the intention of the artist was purely local, appealing beside him the laughers of Atuona, this artwork anticipates the interpretation of African and Oceanian figures by the artists of the twentieth century.
Thérèse is estimated $ 18M for sale by Christie's in New York on November 9, lot 5A. Its pendant Père Paillard is kept at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.
1902 The Great Questioning of Paul Gauguin
2015 SOLD for $ 5.9M including premium
His life became a series of social woes. This uncompromising Christian rejects the Catholic teaching and liturgy but desires to interpret the mystery of life. At the time of the Christ Jaune, 1889, he surrounds the religious symbols with themes from modern life including his own self portrait.
His voluntary exile in Polynesia brings him a synthesis of Christianity and animism. From then Gauguin's art is no more exclusively Christian. Painted in Tahiti in 1897-1898, D'où venons-nous Qui sommes-nous Où allons-nous, which is conceived by the artist as his ultimate masterpiece, does not refer to Western religions.
On May 5 in New York, Sotheby's sells a Nativité, oil on canvas 44 x 62 cm painted in 1902, lot 33 estimated $ 4M.
A Polynesian mother has just given birth to a child in a narrow room looking like a stable. She is assisted by a group of women. The youngest women are naked or almost naked.
But this scene is not only exotic. The radiant halo around the child's head leaves no doubt that this nativity is divine and the praying attitude of the three old women behind the group is Christian.