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.
SOLD for $ 35M including premium