PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)
PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)
PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)
PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)
3 More
PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)

Clovis endormi

PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903)
Clovis endormi
signed and dated ‘p Gauguin 84’ (upper left)
oil on canvas
18 1⁄8 x 21 7⁄8 in. (46 x 55.5 cm.)
Painted in Rouen in 1884
Hermann Thaulow, Tromsø [the artist's brother-in-law], probably a gift from the artist.
Pauline Elizabeth Thaulow, Tromsø [the artist's sister-in-law], by descent from the above in 1890.
Hans Jacob Horst, Oslo, by descent from the above in 1929.
(Possibly) Anonymous sale, Blomqvist, Oslo, circa 1934-1935.
Private collection, Norway.
Arndt Holm, Bergen, before 1972, and thence by descent; sale, Kornfeld, Bern, 23-25 June 1982, lot 226.
Spafford Establishment, Lichtenstein.
Richard L. Feigen & Co., New York.
Acquired from the above on 23 April 1984, and thence by descent to the present owners.
(Probably) Letter from Paul Gauguin to Camille Pissarro, late September 1884.
(Probably) Gauguin's sketchbook, circa 1888-1890.
P. Gauguin, Paul Gauguin, mon père, Paris, 1938 (illustrated).
L. van Dowski, Paul Gauguin oder die Flucht vor der Zivilisation, Zurich, 1950, no. 39a, p. 339 (titled 'Portrait de Clovis Gauguin').
G. Wildenstein, Gauguin, vol. I, Paris, 1964, no. 81, pp. 33 & 34 (illustrated p. 34; titled 'Clovis Gauguin’, dated '1883' and with incorrect provenance).
C. Chassé, Gauguin sans légendes, Paris, 1965, p. 89 (illustrated p. 88; titled 'Clovis Gauguin', dated '1883' and with incorrect provenance).
G. M. Sugana, Tour l'œuvre peint de Gauguin, Milan, 1972, no. 12, p. 87 (illustrated; titled 'Clovis Gauguin' and dated '1883').
V. Jirat-Wasiutynski, Gauguin in the Context of Symbolism, Princeton, 1975, no.2, p. 85.
Y. le Pichon, Sur les traces de Gauguin, Paris, 1986, p. 258 (illustrated p. 30; titled 'Portrait d'un enfant de Gauguin dormant' and dated '1883').
M. Prather & C.F. Stuckey, eds., Gauguin: A Retrospective, New York, 1987, p. 21 (illustrated pl. 5; titled 'Sleeping Boy').
R. Brettell, F. Cachin, C. Fraches-Thory & C. F. Stuckey, The Art of Paul Gauguin, Washington, 1988, no. 13, pp. 36 & 37 (illustrated p. 37; titled 'Sleeping Child').
C. Estienne, Gauguin, Paris, 1989, p. 19 (illustrated; titled 'Enfant endormi' and dated '1886').
F. Cachin, Gauguin: The Quest for Paradise, London, 1992 (illustrated p. 22; titled 'Sleeping Child').
V. Jirat-Wasiutynski, Gauguin in the Context of Symbolism, Princeton, 1975, no. 2, p. 85.
A. Ellridge, Gauguin et les Nabis, Paris, 1993, p. 22 (illustrated; titled 'Enfant endormi' and dated '1888').
J-P. Zingg, Les éventails de Paul Gauguin, Paris, 1996, no. 1, p. 16 (illustrated; titled 'Enfant endormi').
C. Becker, ed., Paul Gauguin: Tahiti, exh. cat., Stuttgart, 1998, p. 89 (illustrated fig. 2; titled 'Child Sleeping').
B. Thomson, ed., Gauguin by himself, London, 1998, no. 13, p. 303 (illustrated p. 25; titled 'Child Asleep').
D. Wildenstein, Gauguin, Premier itinéraire d'un sauvage, Catalogue de l'œuvre peint (1873-1888), vol. I, Paris, 2001, no. 151, p. 171 (illustrated).
E.M. Zafran, ed., Gauguin’s Nirvana: Painters at Le Pouldu 1889-90, exh. cat., Hartford, 2001, no. 185, p. 136 (illustrated; titled 'Sleeping Child').
R.R. Brettell & A.-B. Fonsmark, eds., Gauguin and Impressionism, exh. cat., Copenhagen, 2005, p. 100 (illustrated fig. 71).
R. Shiff, 'Lucky Cézanne' in Cézanne and Beyond, exh. cat., Philadelphia, 2009, pp. 88 & 89 (illustrated fig. 3.11, p. 89).
N. Nils, The Impressionist Trail: The What, Whence and Whither of French Masterpieces in Norway, Oslo, 2019, pp. 19-22 & 315 (illustrated p. 19).
(Possibly) Christiania, Kunstudstilling, Autumn 1884, no. 31 or 32 (titled ‘Nature Mort’).
Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art, The Art of Paul Gauguin, May - July 1988, no. 13, pp. 36 & 37 (illustrated pp. 17 & 37; titled 'Sleeping Child'); this exhibition later travelled to Chicago, The Art Institute, September - December 1988 and Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, January - April 1989, no. 13, pp. 63 & 64 (illustrated pp. 47 & 63; titled 'Enfant endormi').
Tokyo, Bunkamura Museum of Art, Gauguin et l'École de Pont-Aven, April - May 1993, no. 1, pp. 24 & 25 (illustrated p. 25); this exhibition later travelled to Kyoto, National Museum of Modern Art, June - July 1993; Hokkaido, Museum of Modern Art, July - August 1993; Mie, Prefectural Art Museum, September - October 1993 and Koriyama, City Museum of Art, October - November 1993.
Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Gauguin and the Pont-Aven School, May - July 1994, no. 1, pp. 26 & 217 (illustrated p. 27).
Indianapolis, Museum of Art, Gauguin and the School of Pont-Aven, September - October 1994, no. 1, p. 30 (illustrated p. 31); this exhibition later travelled to Baltimore, The Walters Art Gallery, November 1994 - January 1995; Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, February - April 1995; Memphis, The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, May - July 1995; San Diego, Museum of Art, July - October 1995; Portland, Art Museum, November 1995 - January 1996; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, June - September 1996 and Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, October 1996 - January 1997.
Künzelsau, Museum Würth, Gauguin und die Schule von Pont-Aven, March - June 1997, no. 1, pp. 50 & 51 (illustrated p. 49).
Washington, The Phillips Collection, Impressionist Still Life, September - January 2002, pp. 152 & 153 (illustrated pl. 67, p. 153); this exhibition later travelled to Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, February - June 2002.
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, on long term loan, from 2008 until 2023.
London, Tate Modern, Gauguin: Maker of Myth, September 2010 - January 2011, p. 240 (illustrated pl. 24, p. 96); this exhibition later travelled to Washington, National Gallery of Art, February - June 2011.
Chicago, The Art Institute, Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist, June - September 2017, no. 13, p. 97 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, October 2017 - January 2018.
Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, Gauguin: Portraits, May - September 2019, no. 122, pp. 217 & 258 (illustrated p. 216); this exhibition later travelled to London, National Gallery, October 2019 - January 2020.
Further details
This work has been requested for two concurrent upcoming exhibitions:

The World of Gauguin to be held at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from June 2024 to February 2025.
Paul Gauguin and the development of a new pictoral language to be held at Kunstforum Wien, Vienna, from October 2024 to January 2025.
Sale room notice
Please note that this work has been requested for two concurrent upcoming exhibitions:
The World of Gauguin to be held at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston from June 2024 to February 2025.
Paul Gauguin and the development of a new pictoral language to be held at Kunstforum Wien, Vienna, from October 2024 to January 2025.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

Enigmatic and beguiling, Clovis endormi marks a crucial moment in the development of Paul Gauguin’s unique and richly layered idiom. Painted in 1884, the work was transformative, foreshadowing the radical course the artist had started to chart. Moving away from the en plein air landscapes that had thus far dominated his œuvre, Gauguin, in the present work, explored the nascent threads of what would later be termed Symbolism. Set against a twilight blue ground, Clovis, the artist’s favourite child, is fast asleep. A doll lying on the table nearby serves as a companion for the slumbering boy as a large tankard looms overhead. Everything is dreamlike and spectacular. On loan to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, since 2008, Clovis endormi is an art of and for the senses.
Facing increasingly untenable financial circumstances, Gauguin and his family moved to Rouen in January of 1884. He had recently lost his job at the Thomerean insurance firm, and crises plagued the French art market on the whole. Few opportunities to gain a foothold presented themselves and, despite having shown his paintings at several Impressionist exhibitions, Gauguin was still having difficulty attracting collectors. With its gothic town centre and soaring cathedral, Rouen had long been a destination for artists such as J. M. W. Turner and Camille Pissarro who were drawn to its mix of modern industry and quaint history. Like his predecessors, Gauguin too sought new inspiration and new connections in the artistic city.
After giving himself time to acclimatise to his new life, Gauguin set out to explore pictorially the environs around the family home, located in the hills in the northern part of the city. He painted several views of Rouen’s streets and steep topography but for the most part turned his back on the modern world to concentrate on landscapes. Although productive, Gauguin was not entirely happy with his output, writing to Pissarro, his mentor, about his desires to paint ‘very broadly and not monotonously’ (P. Gauguin, Letter to C. Pissarro, mid-May 1884 quoted in A. Fonsmark, ‘Artist-Peintre in Rouen’, in Gauguin and Impressionism, exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 2005, p. 200). Financial troubles continued to plague the artist and the hopes that Gauguin had initially invested in Rouen did not come to fruition. Additionally, Gauguin’s marriage difficulties came to the fore and in July of 1884, his wife Mette left France for Denmark where her family lived, taking with her two of their children, Aline and Paul Rollon. Jean Réne and Clovis remained in Rouen with their father.
The remaining months in Rouen proved lonely for Gauguin and yet in his isolation, he found himself ‘in the midst of one of the most vigorous periods of development’ (ibid., p. 203). With more time to paint, he produced some of his most visionary canvases to date and in the process reconceived his entire idiom. As he wrote to Pissarro that July, ‘Now that I have enough paintings in Paris to show, I am settling down with regard to painting. Now I am painting only for myself, without rushing, and I can assure you that it is extra strong this time. I think it will be very good for me, and even though I might make mistakes (it is even probably that I shall make mistakes), I will always be able to learn something. When you are experimenting you often go off track, but you get to know yourself and how far you can go, or rather you try your strength’ (P. Gauguin, Letter to C. Pissarro, July 1884 in ibid., p. 203).
It was during this ‘extra strong’ period that Gauguin painted Clovis endormi, which Anne-Birgitte Fonsmark argues was the ‘most radical’ of these works ‘not least because of the bold manner in which he mixe[d] two traditional genres, the portrait and the still life’ (A. Fonsmark, ‘Artist-Peintre in Rouen’, in ibid., p. 206). She goes on to write that ‘in this new picture Gauguin imbued the sleeping child with a more enigmatic dimension, both through the unexpected combination of genres and through the presence of the large Norwegian lidded wooden vessel that acts as a mysterious counterpart to the child’s head. With its considerable size in relation to the child’s head and its glowing golden colour, this container with unknown contents possesses an aura of strangeness. It plays a role – the role of the work of art – corresponding to that of Gauguin’s own ceramic jar in the epoch-making [Nature morte au profil de Laval] of 1886, which [Clovis endormi] anticipates in every sense of the word’ (ibid.). Gauguin executed several still lifes and domestic interiors in the early 1880s, and he often incorporated objects that were personally significant to him only to revisit and resituate them in later works; the tankard or tine that Fonsmark has described began to appear in Gauguin’s compositions starting in 1880. Made in Norway, the vessel dates from the 18th century and was likely brought to Paris by Mette when she moved to France. Gauguin first introduced the object in 1880 in Les Deux pots (Wildenstein, vol. 1, no. 60), now in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago. The tine too captivated Sam Josefowitz who sought the object out as he loved the idea of owning the inspiration behind Clovis endormi.
Although he aspired above all to be a painter, Gauguin was experimental, making ceramics, carving wood, and painting on cabinets, all of which together informed his painted imagery. As Ophélie Ferlier-Bouat has suggested, ‘In a sense Gauguin approached his practice in a way that recalls the ideas of the mid-nineteenth century English critic John Ruskin, who underscored his fondness for materials with a rejection of the mechanical techniques that were thought to distance artists from their creations’ (O. Ferlier-Bouat, ‘The Alchemist and The Savage: truth and self-reflection in Gauguin’s three-dimensional work’, in G. Groom, ed., Gauguin: The Artist as Alchemist, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, 2017, p. 47). Gauguin later replaced the tankard with ceramics that he himself made, including a small water vessel with leaflike motifs recalling those in the background of Clovis endormi.
Such hybridity was a central preoccupation for an artist who moved between media, and Gauguin regularly collapsed the boundaries between craft and high art. Materiality would become a key consideration of his mature practice, though his efforts to transcend such classifications were already apparent in the 1880s. In 1883 for example, one year before the present work was painted, Gauguin contemplated designing Impressionist tapestries. Such thinking seems to have informed the background patterning of Clovis endormi, itself a motif that Gauguin reused in the contemporaneous Le vas de Pivoines – II (Wildenstein, vol. 1, no. 146; Private collection). Indeed, it was during this period that Gauguin stopped painting from life and began to work from memory, developing and building up his imagery in an almost methodical manner wherein he excised a motif from its original source and adapted it befitting the medium at hand. Scholars believe that such a transition resulted from the artist’s geographic isolation which saw the end of Pissarro’s input regarding Gauguin’s work.
But if Pissarro’s influence was waning, Gauguin remained faithful to the teachings of another artist: Paul Cezanne. Though no correspondence between the two survives, Gauguin’s pictures testify to the importance of Cezanne on his developing idiom, and such effects can be seen in the formal composition of Clovis endormi in which Gauguin not only employed parallel brushstrokes but also simplified the outlines of the objects depicted. What Gauguin learned from Cezanne, however, cannot be reduced simply to directional brushwork; rather, it was the ‘baroque interplay between appearance and reality’ that made the strongest impression (G. Solana, ‘The Faun Awakes: Gauguin and the revival of the pastoral’ in Gauguin and the Origins of Symbolism, exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2005, p. 25).
In his discussion of Le bol blanc (1886; Wildenstein and Cogniat, vol. 1, no. 211; Kunsthaus Zurich), Guillermo Solana has convincingly argued that the printed wallpaper found in Gauguin’s Cezanne-like still lifes creates ‘a sort of dance between the flowers in the vase, their image in the mirror and the flowers on the wallpaper. The real flowers are located on the borderline between two illusions: the reflection on one side and the wallpaper on the other. It is as if Gauguin were thinking about the nature and limits of pictorial illusionism’ (ibid.). Likewise, the floriate ground in Clovis endormi too represents such a borderline. Here is a liminal space joining the real world of the wood tankard and flesh and blood child with a dreamland, where flowers soar and scale is not governed by gravity. The painting is one which poses more questions than it answers, foregrounding the sense of reverie that would define Gauguin’s mature work. As the artist himself wrote in a letter to Emile Schuffenecker in January 1885, ‘For a long time, philosophers have been rationalising the phenomena which seem supernatural to us and which we somehow sense... The Raphaels and others were people in whom sensation was formulated long before thought... And, as for me, the great artist is the formulator of the greatest intelligence, to whom come the most delicate and consequently the most invisible feelings, or translations, of the mind’ (P. Gauguin, Letter to E. Schuffenecker, 14 January 1885, reprinted in M. Prather and C. Stuckey, Gauguin: A Retrospective, New York, 1987, p. 50).
Clovis endormi has been identified as one of the eight paintings Gauguin wrote to Pissarro about in September 1884. Gauguin had intended for all to be included in a group exhibition at the Christiania Kunstudstilling, in what is now Oslo; other paintings from this shipment include Mette Gauguin en robe du soir (Wildenstein, vol. 1, no. 154) and Capucines et dahlias dans une corbeille (Wildenstein, vol. 1, no. 150), both now in the collection of the National Gallery, Oslo. Faced with ongoing financial woes, Gauguin sought to circumvent his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel and negotiate with the organisers himself via Hermann Thaulow, whose brother, the painter Frits Thaulow, was Gauguin’s brother-in-law and a member of the exhibition’s organizing committee. The two had agreed to split any commissions, an agreement which ultimately proved disastrous for Gauguin. According to the exhibition catalogue, just three of his paintings were shown, suggesting that the exhibition only had room for so many canvases. Clovis endormi was one of the works excluded from the show and was eventually acquired by Hermann before passing to his brother.

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