Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
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Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

Trois têtes Tahitiennes

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Trois têtes Tahitiennes
oil transfer drawing on paper
10 1/2 x 8 3/8 in. (26.7 x 21.1 cm.)
Executed circa 1901-1903
Ambroise Vollard, Paris (possibly acquired from the artist, 1903).
Énrich Chlomovitch, Paris; his collection sale, Paris, 19-20 March 1981, lot 47; sale cancelled.
The heirs of Ambroise Vollard; their sale, Sotheby's, Paris, 29 June 2010, lot 64.
Galerie Talabardon & Gautier, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011.
A. Vollard, Souvenirs d'un Marchand de Tableaux, Paris, 1937 (recto illustrated p. 81).
(possibly) Paris, Galerie Ambroise Vollard, November 1903 (nos. 10, 14 or 23).
Paris, Talabardon & Gautier, Le XIXe siècle, March - April 2011, no. 38 (illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Gauguin, Metamorphoses, March - June 2014, no. 159, p. 196 (verso illustrated p. 67; recto illustrated p. 199).
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Brought to you by

Jessica Brook
Jessica Brook

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming Paul Gauguin catalogue critique, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Institute.

The recent exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Gauguin Metamorphoses, which included Trois têtes Tahitiennes has led to a new appreciation of Gauguin’s monotypes, and of the sheer variation in Gauguin’s monotypes.

This monotype, Trois têtes Tahitiennes, representing three Tahitian heads, was executed during Gauguin’s second and last visit to the South Seas, between 1901 and 1903. Gauguin had always been struck by the beautiful features of the inhabitants and Starr Figura has noted that ‘The women depicted in Gauguin’s portraits all have placid expressions and similar features, including a soft brow, a broad nose, and full lips.’ (S. Figura, “Portraits and Double Portraits”, in S. Figura, ed., Gauguin Metamorphoses, New York, 2014, p. 196.). However, during his second stay in the South Seas, Gauguin focused less on the wilderness of the islands, which had been a key aspect of the works from his first visit, and more on the mythical, spiritual quality of the landscape and the inhabitants. Figura has noted that in several of the works on paper from these years, including Trois têtes Tahitiennes, ‘Gauguin transformed his subjects’ faces into disturbing and quasi-grotesque masks, reminiscent of archaic stone carvings or idols, by leaving their almond-shaped eyes completely blank….The ghostly presence of the faintly drawn profiles evokes the tupapau (or spirits of the dead) that Gauguin inserted into the background of earlier works’ (ibid, p. 196.).

This work was previously sold in 2010 in Paris as one of the ‘Treasures from the Vollard Safe’. Paul Gauguin met Ambroise Vollard in Paris in 1893, a little while after the end of his first trip to Tahiti. Around 1900, Vollard became his dealer, giving Gauguin far greater financial security, enabling his second trip. Trois têtes Tahitiennes was illustrated in Vollard's memoirs of his time as a dealer, published in 1937, and clearly had great sentimental value to him.

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