The Wildenstein Institute will include this work in its forthcoming Paul Gauguin catalogue raisonné.
The present work is executed after Paul Cézanne's Nature morte au compotier of 1879-1880 (R.418, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; fig. 1). Gauguin owned Cézanne's masterpiece and considered it one of his most treasured possessions, commenting in 1888 in response to Emile Schuffenecker's offer to purchase it, that 'the Cézanne you enquired about is an absolute gem... I treasure it and unless it became absolutely necessary I would not sell it until after I had sold my last shirt' (letter from Pont-Aven, June 1888, quoted in B. Thompson (ed.), Gauguin by himself, London, 1993, p. 85). Gauguin eventually did part with it under extreme circumstances when he needed money for hospital treatment in Tahiti in 1897.
As one of his most prized possessions, Gauguin took the oil with him when he and Mette moved to Copenhagen in November 1884. Although he left much of his art collection with his wife when he returned to Paris in June of the following year, he must have either taken this work with him or had her send it to him at a later date. Mette eventually sold some of Gauguin's collection to support herself and her family, but Gauguin would part with neither this work nor a Cézanne landscape he owned (R.437, Burrell Collection, Glasgow City Art Gallery), as 'they are rare of this type since he made few finished ones and one day they will be very valuable'. Grudgingly, Gauguin eventually instructed Mette to sell the landscape but doggedly kept hold of Nature morte au compotier. In 1890 the work was with Gauguin in Brittany where he included it in Portrait de femme à la nature morte de Cézanne (W.387, The Art Institute of Chicago), occupying the entire background of his painting. At other times he hung the work in a place of honour in his studio in Paris where he was known to give impromptu lectures to his followers on the genius of Cézanne. According to a Polish friend, he even took it to Madame Charlotte's restaurant so he could expound on his favourite subject to a wider audience.
Gauguin was not the only admirer of Cézanne's Nature morte au compotier. It appears also in Maurice Denis' iconic Hommage à Cézanne of 1900-1901 (Musée d'Orsay, Paris; fig. 2), which depicts Redon, Vuillard, Roussel, Vollard, Denis, Sérusier, Mellerio, Ranson, Bonnard and Madame Denis clustered admiringly around Cézanne's painting.
Cézanne's influence is visible throughout Gauguin's work of the 1880s, particularly in his still-lifes. Gauguin's admiration for Nature morte au compotier is evident from the present work, the only known direct version of Cézanne's subject by Gauguin, despite the fact that he owned the oil for more than twenty years. However, the differences between the two works are telling; Gauguin has altered Cézanne's composition somewhat, deleting the glass and the knife and simplifying the background in an attempt to concentrate on Cézanne's complex composition and the spatial relationship between the fruits and the compotier. The addition of the curtain on the right is another interesting compositional device - it creates an enclosed sense of space which is typical of Gauguin's intimate early still lifes and interiors.
The present work has a fascinating provenance. It remained in the Gauguin family in Copenhagen for nearly forty years after it was executed. According to Paul Renée Gauguin, his father Pola (the artist's son) then sold the work to a close friend, Halfdan Nobel Roede, sometime in the 1910s. Roede's daughter Kirsten Platou remembers the work hanging in their home Riis Huvudgard near Oslo where they lived until 1919. After some decades in Roede's possession, during which time the work was exhibited at the Kunstnerneshus in Oslo, it was purchased in the 1960s via a Norwegian dealer and has remained in this Scandinavian collection ever since. The pre-sale exhibition at Christie's London in June will be the first time the work has been exhibited publicly outside of Scandinavia since Gauguin took it to Copenhagen in 1884.