PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)
PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)
PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)
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PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)
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The Artistic Journey – A Distinguished West Coast Collection
PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)

Mona-Mona (Savoureux)

PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)
Mona-Mona (Savoureux)
signed and dated 'P GAUGUIN. 1901' (upper left) and titled 'MONA MONA' (lower left)
oil on canvas laid down on board
14 1/2 x 19 in. (37 x 48.1 cm.)
Painted in 1901
(possibly) Ambroise Vollard, Paris (acquired from the artist, circa December 1902).
Mme Besnard, Paris.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 11 May 1906).
Paul Cassirer, Paris (acquired from the above, 29 May 1906).
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 13 August 1906).
Paul Jamot, Paris (acquired from the above, 26 November 1906, until at least 1937).
Richard A. Peto, Isle of Wight (by 1947).
Rosemary Peto, London (by descent from the above, 1963).
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London (acquired from the above, 1967).
Paul and Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon, New York (acquired from the above, 1967).
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London (acquired from the above, 1986).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 2 November 2010, lot 36.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owners.
R. Homo, F. Rouget and J. Trillat, Ministère des Colonies: Exposition coloniale internationale de 1931, rapport général présenté par le gouverneur Général Olivier, Paris, 1933, vol. 5, p. 839.
J. de Laprade, "La vie ardente de Paul Gauguin" in Beaux-arts, vol. 74, no. 203, 20 November 1936, p. 2 (titled Nature morte aux fleurs et aux fruits).
R. Charmet, "Aventurier de la peinture et de la vie: Gauguin s'est cherché quarante ans" in Arts, lettres, spectacles, no. 758, 20-26 January 1960, p. 9.
K. Morand, "Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions: Paris" in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 102, no. 684, March 1960, p. 128.
D. Wildenstein, Gauguin, Paris, 1964, vol. 1, p. 258, no. 608 (illustrated).
M. Bodelsen, "The Literature of Art: The Wildenstein-Cogniat Gauguin Catalogue" in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 108, no. 754, January 1966, p. 28, no. W.608.
B. Danielsson, "Gauguin's Tahitian Titles" in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 109, no. 769, April 1967, p. 231, no. 33.
G.M. Sugana, L'Opera completa di Gauguin, Milan, 1972, p. 113, no. 418 (illustrated, p. 111, no. 417; titled Fiori et frutta (Mona Mona)).
E. Fezzi, Gauguin: Every Painting, New York, 1980, vol. 2, p. 80, no. 575 (illustrated, no. 572).
M. Jakobi, Gauguin-Signac: La genèse du titre contemporain, Paris, 2015, pp. 98 and 195, no. 156 (illustrated, p. 195).
D. Wildenstein, S. Crussard and R.R. Brettell, Gauguin: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, 1891-1903 (, no. W608 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Fleurs et natures mortes, November 1907, no. 20.
Paris, Galerie Le Portique, Paul Gauguin: Peintures, sculptures, February 1931, no. 13.
Paris, Palais de la Porte-Dorée, Exposition coloniale internationale, May-November 1931.
Paris, La Gazette des Beaux-Arts, La vie ardente de Paul Gauguin, November 1936-January 1937, p. 63, no. 83.
London, Arts Council, French Paintings from Mr Peto's Collection, 1947-1948, no. 11.
London, Arts Council, French Paintings: A Second Selection from Mr Peto's Collection, 1951-1952, p. 10, no. 11.
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Cent œuvres de Gauguin, January-March 1960, no. 161 (illustrated).
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Paul Gauguin, April-May 1960, pp. 14 and 45, no. 73 (illustrated, p. 45).
Plymouth City Art Gallery, French Impressionists and English Paintings and Sculpture from the Peto Collection, November 1960, p. 9, no. 33 (illustrated, pl. IV).
London, Wildenstein & Co., Ltd., London, The French Impressionists and Some of their Contemporaries, April-May 1963, pp. 29 and 38, no. 69.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

Paul Gauguin first travelled to the South Seas in 1891 with the fantasy of escaping Europe’s staid conventions. Hoping to change his fortunes, and inspired by the Exposition Universelle of 1887 in which exhibitions reconstructed French colonies, Gauguin first thought of Madagascar before deciding to make Tahiti the site of the “atelier du tropiques” that he and Vincent van Gogh had first dreamed up in Arles (Letter 884, 13 June 1890, in L. Jansen, H. Luijten and N. Bakker, eds., Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition, London, 2009, vol. 5, p. 259). Upon arrival, Gauguin was disappointed: Tahiti was far from undiscovered, uncivilized, or even un-French, having been annexed by France in 1880. Indeed, by the time his boat had docked in Papeete, the island had long been governed by the same laws, rules, and social conventions as his native France.
Unimpressed with the capital and desiring a more authentic Tahiti, Gauguin moved to Mataiea, forty-five kilometers away. A decade later, similar desires motivated his move to Hiva Oa: tired of his fellow Europeans, he admitted that his “imagination was starting to cool” and the Marquesas presented the artist with what he believed to be a more true Other (quoted in a letter to D. de Monfried, June 1901, reprinted in M. Prather and C. Stuckey, eds., Gauguin: A Retrospective, New York, 1987, p. 297). Painted in 1901, Mona-Mona (Savoureux) is one of nine still lifes that Gauguin created during his two years on the island. The work depicts a clutch of fruit, juicy grapes, and the arching boughs of delicate flowers all positioned atop an undulating tablecloth; the titular ‘mona-mona’ means savory in Tahitian. The painting’s background is a dark, velvety expanse of astral blue, and this combination of brilliant, intoxicating coloration and flattened forms are characteristic of Gauguin's work from Tahiti. Certainly, the colors here evince what his contemporary Achille Delaroche called, a “skillful harmonizing,” writing that Gauguin’s “tones intermingle or oppose one another in gradations that sing like a symphony” (“Concerning the Painting of Paul Gauguin,” L’Ermitage, 1894, reprinted in ibid., p. 229).
Although Gauguin had sought to make a name by distancing himself from Paris, he nevertheless sustained a link to the French Impressionists. He corresponded regularly with artists back home and maintained his links to the art world. He also owned and treasured a number of Paul Cezanne’s paintings, including Nature morte au compotier, 1879-1880, which he counted among his most important possessions, going so far as to pay homage to the work into his own composition Femme devant une nature morte de Cezanne, 1890, held in the collection of The Art Institute Chicago. In a letter to Emile Schuffenecker, Gauguin wrote, “It's the apple of my eye, and unless there's an absolute necessity I would part with it only after my last shirt” (quoted in J. Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1996, vol. I, p. 277). Indeed, it is through the still life genre that the enduring influence of the Aixiois painter can be most felt. Gauguin looked to Cezanne’s flat blocks of color, constructive approach to painting, and the manner in which he played with spatial depth to create pictorial ambiguity, all evident in the present work’s planar forms and enigmatic geometries.
Yet even as Gauguin entertained a lifelong flirtation with Cezanne’s oeuvre, Mona-Mona (Savoureux) decidedly captures his own aesthetic. The painting, Kathleen Morand wrote, “embodies perfectly [his] very personal vision” (op. cit., 1960, p. 128). Indeed, the works of his last years appear to be situated in a dream world of Gauguin’s own construction: Though colors may have been drawn from the South Seas the imagery emerged entirely from Gauguin. Although he conjured paradise, gone are the statues of deities and the references to Maohi mythologies and traditions. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Gauguin often worked mostly from memory and his own imagination, selecting colors and inventing forms as he developed his compositions. When the dealer Ambroise Vollard wrote to ask him to paint a series of floral still lifes, Gauguin replied, “I am not a painter who copies nature—today less than before. With me everything happens in my crazy imagination and when I tire of painting figures I begin a still-life and finish it without any model” (quoted in R. Brettell et al., The Art of Paul Gauguin, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., p. 456).
Shortly after its completion, Mona-Mona (Savoureux) was acquired by Paul Jamot, the art historian and curator who worked for the Louvre. Over the course of a life devoted to art, Jamot amassed an outstanding collection which included works by Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Eugène Delacroix, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Upon his death, the collection was bequeathed to the Louvre. Mona Mona was subsequently owned by Paul and Bunny Mellon. Renowned for his philanthropy and patronage of the arts, Mellon began collecting art in his late-twenties and went on to develop an unparalleled collection, much of which was donated to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Following his death in 1999, he was remembered as the “endlessly inventive benefactor of the nation's cultural life” and a man who indelibly changed the artistic landscape of the United States (J. Russell, “Paul Mellon, Patrician Champion of Art and National Gallery, Dies,” New York Times, February 3, 1999, p. A1).

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