Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Property from the Collection of Broadway Composer-Lyricist Richard Adler
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

Petit berger Breton

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Petit berger Breton
signed '- P Gauguin' (lower left)
gouache over pencil on silk
5 5/8 x 18 7/8 in. (14.5 x 47.9 cm.) (irregular)
Painted in 1888
Roger Sauerbach, Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 11 March 1931, lot 10.
Olivier Senn, Paris (by 1934).
Anon. sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 21 June 1960, lot 23.
Moritz Gutmann, Paris.
Acquired by the family of the present owner, by 1973.
Réalités, no. 127, June 1961, p. 20 (illustrated).
G. Wildenstein, Gauguin, Paris, 1964, vol. I, p. 96, no. 257 (illustrated).
M.S. Gerstein, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Fans, Ph.D. Diss., Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 1978, pp. 320-321, no. 18 (illustrated).
J.-P. Zingg, Les éventails de Paul Gauguin, Paris, 1996, pp. 46 and 90 (illustrated in color, p. 47, pl. XV).
Paris, L'Ecole de Pont-Aven and l'Académie Julian, Gauguin et ses amis, February-March 1934, no. 58.
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, Cinquantenaire du Symbolisme, June-July 1936, p. 252, no. 1245.
Paris, Gazette des beaux-arts, La vie ardente de Paul Gauguin, December 1936, no. 78.
Southampton, New York, The Parrish Art Museum, Art from Southampton Collections, August-September 1973, no. 44.
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart Graphische Sammlung and Zurich, Museum Bellerive, Kompositionen im halbrund, fächerblätter aus vier jahrhunderten, July-November 1984, p. 152, no. 79 (illustrated in color).
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Lure of the Exotic, Gauguin in New York Collections, June-October 2002, p. 219, no. 15 (illustrated in color, p. 33).
Sale room notice
The Art Institute of Chicago and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris have requested this work for their forthcoming exhibition Gauguin, Artist as Alchemist, from June 2017 to January 2018.

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

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 Art Institute of Chicago and the Musée d’Orsay, Paris have requested this work for their forthcoming exhibition Gauguin, Artist as Alchemist, in Chicago from 25 June to 10 September 2017 and in Paris from 9 October 2017 to 21 January 2018.

Between 1886 and 1894, Gauguin made four trips to Brittany, staying first in the scenic artist's colony of Pont-Aven and later in the rustic fishing village of Le Pouldu. Pont-Aven had been a popular summer destination since the early 1870s for artists who worked, studied and exhibited in Paris, including many from other European countries and America. Artists were drawn to the area's rugged landscape and its proximity to maritime views, the temperate climate that encouraged plein air painting, and the picturesque, traditional costumes of the local women. On the strength of his developing ideas about painting and his increasingly innovative technique, Gauguin soon became a leading and influential figure among his fellow painters. During each visit, he found artistic inspiration in the daily labors of the Breton peasants, painting them tending their flocks, doing their washing, and harvesting flax. More importantly, it was in Brittany that Gauguin finally broke free of earlier tradition and emerged as an intensely original modern master. Petit berger Breton was painted on Gauguin's second trip to Brittany in 1888, a pivotal year in his stylistic development.
The Impressionist movement experienced a schism in 1886, producing two diametrically opposed styles. Traditional optical Impressionism culminated in the development of the Divisionist movement, exemplified by Seurat's masterpiece Un dimanche d'été à l'Ile de la Grande Jatte (coll. The Art Institute of Chicago). The second group pursued a more imaginative and anti-literal form of expression that would come to be known as Synthetism and would inaugurate the Symbolist movement at the end of the century. Led by Louis Anquetin and Emile Bernard, the Synthetists advocated the theory of "suggestive color," which they applied in conjunction with a cloisonnist technique to produce works of simple designs, composed of contrasting monochromatic blocks of color each outlined in thin black or blue lines. Judy Le Paul has observed, “The Breton landscape and atmosphere encouraged the development of this new style. The groves of small trees that formed a dark linear border around the colored masses of Breton fields and orchards lent themselves quite naturally to cloisonnism, while the granite masses of this area suggested a universe situated outside both space and time” (Gauguin and the Impressionists at Pont-Aven, New York, 1983, p. 20). However, the rise of the Synthetists would prove short-lived. A wide range of Impressionists from both groups had simultaneously descended on Brittany in 1886, and the two movements coexisted for some time. But Gauguin himself eventually rejected Synthetism, admonishing Claude-Emile Schuffenecker in the process, "Be an Impressionist to the end and don't worry about anything" (quoted in ibid., p. 21).
Petit berger Breton depicts a young Breton boy staring off into the distance in a field with two geese. It has been noted that “the children Gauguin portrayed in Brittany probably reminded him of his own three sons and daughter, who were with their mother in Copenhagen” (C. Ives and S.A. Stein, exh. cat., op. cit., 2002, p. 32). The goose represents a recurring motif in Gauguin's work during his time in Brittany. While Gauguin may have selected the goose in part as a simple emblem of rustic farm life in Brittany, scholars have proposed that the motif could have more nuanced connotations as well, evoking the Greek myth of Leda, who copulated with Zeus in the form of a swan.
Finally, it is possible that Gauguin intended works like the present gouache as homage to his Impressionist mentor, Camille Pissarro. During the mid-1880s, Pissarro made several fan-shaped gouaches, such as the present work, which depict peasant women and children tending their geese, one of which Gauguin described in his memoirs: "There's a charming fan... A simple, half-opened gate separating two very green (Pissarro green) meadows, and passing through it a gaggle of geese nervously looking about as they ask themselves, 'Are we heading toward Seurat's or Millet's?' They all end up waddling off to Pissarro's..." (quoted in ibid., p. 33).
The present gouache comes from the collection of Broadway composer and lyricist, Richard Adler, best known for his collaborations with Jerry Ross on Tony Award-winning The Pajama Game (1954) and Damn Yankees (1955).

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