John La Farge (1835-1910)
John La Farge (1835-1910)

Uponohu, End of Cook's Bay, Island of Moorea, Sunset

John La Farge (1835-1910)
Uponohu, End of Cook's Bay, Island of Moorea, Sunset
oil on canvas
19¼ x 30 in. (48. x 76.2 cm.)
The artist.
Estate of the above.
Sale: American Art Galleries, New York, 29-31 March 1911, no. 597.
Hamilton Easter Field, New York.
Robert L. Laurent, Brooklyn, New York, by bequest, 1922.
Mrs. David Cochran, Brooklyn, New York, by descent, 1966.
Graham Gallery, New York, 1966.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc., New York, 1967.
Carl Schaefer Denzel, Los Angeles, California.
Estate of the above, 1980.
Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, California, by bequest, 1984.
Bronson-Rollins & Associates, Inc., Los Angeles, California, 1987.
J. La Farge, Letter to Doll & Richards, Yale La Farge Family Papers, March 1909, D195, frames 83-84.
R.L. Laurent, Letter to Henry A. La Farge, Yale La Farge Family Papers, November 28, 1934, D195, frames 83-84.
Graham Gallery, John La Farge (1835-1910), exhibition catalogue, New York, 1966, n.p., no. 54 (as Uponohu, Morning, Society Islands).
H.A. La Farge, "John La Farge: A Reappraisal," Art News, vol. 65, May 1966, p. 29, illustrated.
H.A. La Farge, "Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of John La Farge," New Haven, Connecticut, unpublished card file, La Farge Family Papers, circa 1934-74, no. 75 (oils).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Exhibition of Glass, Oil and Water Color Paintings and Sketches by John La Farge, N.A., February 1909, no. 69.
Boston, Massachusetts, Doll & Richards, Catalogue of Oil and Water Color Paintings and Sketches by John La Farge, N.A., March-April 1909, no. 62.
New York, The Century Association, Exhibition Records of the Century, May 1909.
New York, Natural History Museum, Collection of Paintings made among the South Sea Islands by the Late John La Farge Loaned by Miss Grace Edith Barnes, Executrix, January 1911, no. 8.
New York, American Art Galleries, 1911, no. 597.
New York, Macbeth Gallery, John La Farge, 1835-1910, Loan Exhibition, April 10-May 15, 1948, no. 26.
New York, Graham Gallery, John La Farge (1835-1910), May 4-June 10, 1966, no. 54 (as Uponohu, Morning, Society Islands).
Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, American Paintings from Los Angeles Collections, May 7-June 30, 1974.

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Lot Essay

John La Farge and Henry Adams visited the picturesque island of Moorea, not far from Tahiti in April 1891. They stayed at the village of Uponohu on Cook's Bay in a house belonging to Tati Salmon, one of their hosts in Tahiti. La Farge considered this area one of the most beautiful sites that he and Adams visited in the South Seas.

La Farge's trip to the South Seas had a profound effect on him, and his experience there would ultimately redirect his art. The native peoples of the islands and the lush tropical scenery provided La Farge with fresh inspiration. Entranced by the new surroundings and subject matter, La Farge began a period of great activity, executing some of his most memorable watercolors and oil paintings.

During his stay at Uponohu on Moorea, La Farge executed a drawing and a watercolor of the vista seen just outside his host's house. These preliminary studies, now in the collections of the Addison Museum of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts and the New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut, later served as the basis for this large oil version. As in the case of other large easel paintings of South Seas subjects, La Farge began Uponohu, End of Cook's Bay, Island of Moorea, Sunset in the mid-1890s while preparing a large exhibition of travel sketches. He did not finish the picture until 1909 and in March of that year sent the painting to Doll & Richards, Boston, Massachusetts for inclusion in a one-man exhibition.

Among the important paintings executed at this time is the present work Uponohu, End of Cook's Bay, Island of Moorea, Sunset and After-Glow, Tautira River, Tahiti (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). Like the majority of La Farge's South Seas paintings, Uponohu, End of Cook's Bay, Island of Moorea, Sunset explores a landscape which the artist found to be evocative of a lost Golden Age and represented the timelessness of classical antiquity.

"If painting the figure simultaneously enthralled and frustrated the artist," writes J. Yarnall, "painting the landscape was relatively effortless. The volcanic mountains and soaring palms seemed to prove the ideal focus and frame for La Farge's vistas of sea, land and sky. The dramatic, intensely colorful natural phenomena, such as the prolonged afterglow cast on the waters after sunset, inspired a new chromatic richness that gave many works a special luminosity." ("Nature and Art in the Painting of John La Farge," John La Farge, New York, 1987, p. 111)

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