Paul Gauguin Lot 1026
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
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Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

Ja Orana Ritou

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Ja Orana Ritou
titled 'Ja Orana Ritou' (along the upper edge)
watercolor and pencil on paper
12 5/8 x 8 3/8 in. (32 x 21.4 cm.)
Executed circa 1891-1894
Paco Durrio, Paris (by 1926).
A.M. Walter Geiser, Basel (by 1936).
Anon. sale, Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, 23 June 1989, lot 31.
Anon. sale, Christie's, London, 3 April 1990, lot 118.
Avanti Galleries, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, November 1993.
R. Cogniat, "La vie ardente de Paul Gauguin," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, no. 88, December 1936, no. 88.
L. van Dowski, Die Wahrheit über Gauguin, Darmstadt, 1973, p. 205 (illustrated).
Paris, Association Paris-Amérique Latine, Hommage au génial artiste Franco-Péruvien, Gauguin, December 1926, p. 22, no. 73 (titled Gauguin travaillant devant sa case).
Kunsthalle Basel, Paul Gauguin, July-August 1928, no. 157 (titled Gauguin in seiner Hütte arbeitend).
Berlin, Galerie Thannhauser, Paul Gauguin, October 1928, p. 13, no. 116 (titled Gauguin in seiner Hütte arbeitend).
London, The Leicester Galleries (Ernest, Brown & Phillips, Ltd.), The Durrio Collection of Works by Paul Gauguin, May-June 1931, p. 12, no. 79 (titled Portrait de Gauguin à Tahiti).
Kunstmuseum Basel, Paul Gauguin, November 1949-January 1950, no. 128 (titled Gauguin in seiner Hütte am Zeichentisch stehend).
Rome, Complesso del Vittoriano, Paul Gauguin, Artist of Myth and Dream, October 2007-February 2008, pp. 22 and 336, no. 101 (illustrated in color, p. 337).

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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.

In the present work, Gauguin depicts himself as an indigenous Tahitian, about to begin his day’s work. Inscribed by the artist along the upper edge, “Ja Orana Ritou,” meaning “Hello Work,” this interesting self-portrait shows Gauguin, his back to the viewer, at work in the privacy of his own bedroom, standing at what looks to be a sculptor’s easel. Scholarly opinion is divided as to whether the present work was painted during the artist’s first stay in Tahiti, or after his return to France in 1893. The architecture of the room depicted does not correspond with any of Gauguin’s known residences in Tahiti, and Charles F. Stuckey has suggested that it represents a room in Paris or Brittany, as opposed to the commonly held view that the setting is in the artist’s Tahitian hut. As Gauguin broke his leg in a brawl in Corcarceau in July 1894 and thereafter had trouble standing, Stuckey suggests that the watercolor was likely made in the first half of 1894. Gauguin did long to return to Tahiti after returned back to France, and he created many works in this period which resonate with nostalgia for his time in the Pacific.
Gauguin here depicts himself wearing a bright red pareu. These patterned skirts were common attire for women in Tahiti, and we see them dressed in this outfit in many of Gauguin’s paintings from this first stay there. The artist brought back such items as souvenirs when he returned to France. In addition to the pareu, he wears a long-sleeved man’s shirt, combining clothing which was meant for both males and females. A photograph from this time taken by the Czech artist Mucha shows Gauguin pretending to play his harmonium (fig. 1). He sits in front of the instrument, looking back at the viewer, however rather than being dressed in trousers, he appears to have a skirt draped around his legs while wearing a proper jacket on his torso. The same pareu can be seen on the sitter for Guitar Player (fig. 2), where a man sits in Gauguin’s studio at 6, rue Vercingétorix, without pants and with a pareu wrapped around his bottom half. Like the Mucha photograph, the sitter wears a formal jacket as he plays the guitar. These images attest to the spirit of revelry amongst Gauguin and his friends. Ja Orana Ritou first belonged to Gauguin’s protégé, the Spanish artist Paco Durrio, who is likely the model for the Guitar Player.

(fig. 1) Paul Gauguin playing the harmonium in Mucha’s studio, circa 1895.
(fig. 2) Paul Gauguin, Guitar Player, circa 1902. Private collection.

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