Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Property from the Collection of Dr. and Mrs. Jerome S. Coles
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

Dahlias et mandoline

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Dahlias et mandoline
signed and dated ‘P. Gauguin 1883’ (lower left)
oil on canvas
18 7/8 x 22 5/8 in. (47.8 x 57.3 cm.)
Painted in summer-autumn 1883
Mette Gauguin, Copenhagen.
Benny Dessau, Copenhagen (acquired from the above, by 1920).
Olaf Dessau, Copenhagen (by descent from the above and until at least 1964).
Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York.
Lloyd S. and Margery B. Gilmour, New York (acquired from the above, November 1965).
Margery B. Gilmour, New York (by descent from the above); sale, Christie's, New York, 13 May 1980, lot 21.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owners.
H. Rostrup, "Eventails et pastels de Gauguin" in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, September 1960, p. 163 (illustrated, fig. 9; titled Nature morte à la mandoline).
G. Wildenstein, Gauguin, Paris, 1964, vol. I, p. 37, no. 91 (illustrated; titled Mandoline et cache-pot).
M. Bodelsen, "Paul Gauguin: Volume I Catalogue by Georges Wildenstein" in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 108, no. 754, January 1966, p. 35.
D. Wildenstein, Gauguin, A Savage in the Making: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings (1873-1888), Paris, 2002, vol. I, p. 123, no. 108 (illustrated).
(possibly) Copenhagen, Den Frie Udstilling, 1893, no. 129 (titled Nature morte).
Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Paul Gauguin: Retrospektiv Udstilling i Anledning af Hundredaaret for hans Fødsel, May-June 1948, p. 10, no. 17 (titled Nature morte med mandolin og blomsterkrukke).
Copenhagen, Winkel & Magnussen, Gauguin og hans Venner, June-July 1956, p. 33, no. 68 (illustrated, p. 39; titled Nature morte med mandolin og blomster).
Copenhagen, Ordrupgaard, Gauguin og van Gogh i København i 1893, December 1984-February 1985, p. 59, no. 15 (illustrated in color; titled Nature morte med mandolin og urtepotteskjuler).

Lot Essay

Gauguin painted Dahlias et mandoline—an allegory of his developing ideas about art—in 1883, in the midst of a full-scale questioning of the aims and methods of atmospheric Impressionism. He was closer than ever at this time to his Impressionist mentor Pissarro, and he had his best opportunity yet to study the work of the first-generation Impressionists at the series of solo shows that Durand-Ruel mounted in spring 1883. Nevertheless, stimulated by Cézanne’s radical approach to composition and facture, Gauguin increasingly cultivated an experimental, anti-Impressionist streak in his own art, seeking to convey his instinctive “sensations of the heart.” In mid-1883, he received notice of his impending dismissal from his job as a stockbroker—a financial crisis for his growing family, but one that ultimately liberated him to pursue his artistic quest full-time.
Gauguin derived the compositional schema for this densely worked still-life from one of his most treasured possessions—Cézanne’s Nature morte au compotier, 1879-1880 (Rewald, no. 418), which later served as a focal point of Denis's Homme à Cézanne, 1900, and hung for decades in the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller. The tabletop is partially covered with a textile and tilted slightly upward, while the background wall runs parallel to the picture surface, creating a compressed, frieze-like space. The fringed tapestry offers a visual analogue for Gauguin’s experimentation with a systematic, woven facture comprised of warps and wefts of colored lines, most notable in the gold-toned background plane. The “real” dahlias find an echo in the painted flowers on the ceramic planter (which appears as well in Wildenstein, no. 95), calling attention to the artifice of the entire ensemble.
Although Gauguin did not learn to play the mandolin until his sojourn at Le Pouldu in 1889, the instrument features prominently in his work well before this time (Wildenstein, nos. 63-64 and 169). Here, the mandolin acts as an emblem for musical harmony of the sort that Gauguin sought to achieve through the interrelationship of shape and color in his art. “Like music,” he explained, “painting acts on the soul through the intermediary of the senses, harmonious hues correspond to harmonious sounds, but in painting one obtains a unity that is impossible in music” (“Notes synthétiques,” 1884-1885; quoted in Gauguin, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988, p. 28).

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