Category Archives: Art

Works of DAVID ADLER (1882-1949), Beaux-arts Chicago architect of “the Great House.”

FEATURE image: Staff members of The Charles A. Stonehill Estate on the beach, c. 1912.

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By John P. Walsh

David Adler (January 3, 1882 – September 27, 1949) was an American architect who made major contributions in domestic architecture for mostly affluent clients in and around Chicago. Different than German-American modernist architect Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) who also practiced in Chicago around the same time, David Adler’s important work drew from the past for his architectural idioms.What are these artistic arrows in Adler’s quiver and what makes his work interesting and valuable today?

Buildings intact and standing today.

A great amount of his domestic buildings are still standing and mainly intact for the viewer to see and experience today. Only seven of his architectural projects have been demolished. These monuments of a gilded age attract one’s attention by their powerful presence based on their typical enormity, ornate details, and tasteful grace rooted in the classic European style. Gigantic skylights, curved staircases, ornate fanlight windows, columns, working fountains, and many other features, characterize Adler’s homes for his clients.

Based on his commissioned projects, David’s Adler’s architectural career spanned from 1911 following his return from studying in Europe after an undergraduate career at Princeton University, until the year of his death in 1949. 

Early work and later updates.

In 1913, 31-year-old Adler was designing and building outside of the Chicago area—specifically, a chapel and iron gates at Greenwood Cemetery in Galena, Illinois.

After 1915, he was doing out-of-state projects such as the Berney house and garage in Fort Worth, Texas and the Dillingham house in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Adler’s grandiose floor plans made their appearance at the start of his career in 1911 and continued over 38 years in more than 200 major works, several of which he returned to in later years and updated.

Diverse projects for social elite.

His work includes mostly houses, whether complete or in alterations and additions, but also apartments, townhouses, gates and terraces, outbuildings and dependencies, clubhouses, locker rooms, bathhouses, swimming pools, cottages, commercial buildings, boardrooms, lodges, prefabricated houses, houseboats, and in 1924, a dining car for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. In the late 1940s, Adler turned to designing an altar and headstones for the social elite.

Adler planned and built in locations throughout the United States including the aforesaid Fort Worth, Texas and Honolulu, Hawaii; Wisconsin; Minnesota; Massachusetts; New York City and State; Connecticut; Colorado; Georgia; California; Florida; Louisiana; Virginia; New Mexico; as well as internationally, including British Columbia; and London, England.

Work in and near Chicago, Illinois.

The vast majority of his commissions—whether he planned and built them or only planned them—are found in the American Midwest, especially in Illinois, and particularly in and around Chicago. 

While some Adler commissions were also planned but not constructed, only a handful of buildings have been so far razed. This translates for today’s viewer into a near complete body of Adler’s architectural work to be appreciated (although most remain in private hands).

Anti-Modernist, European tradition and American taste.

As streamlined, monumental and functional modernist architecture made its appearance in the late nineteenth century based in part on the stylistic language of industrialization, the wealth generated in that prosperous machine age became concentrated in the hands of individuals and their families who, having begun the perennial pilgrimage of American tourists to Europe, desired to live in private residences that evoked the palatial surroundings of historical nobility.3 

David Adler’s “traditionalist” work in the first half of the twentieth century was part of, and built on, the great American tradition of architects who relied on European antecedents but adapted them to contemporary American taste. Additionally, Adler’s years in Europe between 1908 and 1911, especially in France, and his return to Chicago which like other cities in the United States after 1890 experienced a Beaux-Arts (academic neoclassical) renaissance, led him to embrace traditional architectural systems and rules for his clients throughout his career.

Honorary licensed architect of the “Great House.”

Throughout the 1910s and 1920s Adler’s architectural practice— surprisingly he was not a licensed architect although he received an honorary license in his mid-career—encountered socioeconomic conditions in Chicago and elsewhere that benefited his early and later design success.

Proliferation of his traditional work is more remarkable when viewed in the context of the modernist architectural achievements which were materializing on the landscape in the United States and Europe in those same years he practiced.

Onset of the Great Depression and Memorial Service at The Art Institute of Chicago.

By the end of his life Adler expressed regret that the lengthy era of the “great house” was over. In the Great Depression in the 1930s, Adler had to adapt to designing smaller-scaled projects.

When Adler died unexpectedly at 67 years old in 1949, he left new commissions on the drafting table. His memorial service was held in The Art Institute of Chicago where Adler had been a board member for almost twenty five years and he was buried in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery.

NOTES

  1. The Country Houses of David Adler, Stephan M. Salny, Introduction by Franz Schulze, W.W. Norton & Company, New York and London, 2001. p. 9.
  2. Ibid., pp.193- 203.
  3. Ibid., p. 10; see We’ll Always Have Paris, American Tourists in France since 1930, Harvey Levenstein, The University of Chicago Press, 2004.
  4. Country houses, p.11.

Charter Club, Princeton, New Jersey, 1903. Razed in 1913.

David Adler 1905 Charter Club.

Adler’s sketch in 1905 for Princeton’s Charter Club.

David Adler Charter Club

The Charter Club based on Adler’s design. One of Princeton’s undergraduate eating clubs.

David Adler.

Charter Club, symmetrical Georgian Revival design. The entrance portico was supported by four Doric columns that partly masked a balcony on the second story. Strong dental molding crowd the tops of the second-floor windows, while a row of five identical dormers gave the structure a top-heavy look. A covered porch extended to the east, supported by Doric columns. As a cost-saving measure, the entire structure was built of wood. It was replaced in 1913.

Mrs. and Mrs. Charles A. Stonehill, Glencoe, Illinois, 1911. Louis XIII style. Alterations, 1930. Razed, 1960s.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's.

David Adler, Mr/s. Charles A Stonehill, Glencoe, Illinois, 1911. View of house from Lake Michigan.

David Adler as a young man.

David Adler when a young man.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's.

David Adler, Mr/s. Charles A Stonehill, Glencoe, Illinois, 1911. Terrace façade.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's. DINING ROOM.

David Adler, Mr/s. Charles A. Stonehill, Glencoe, Illinois, 1911. Dining Room. English walnut paneling with hand-carved walnut table and high back upholstered chairs.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's.

Original entrance to Stonehill Mansion on Sheridan Road in Glencoe, Illinois. It sat on more than 19 acres on Lake Michigan. In 2016 North Shore Congregation Israel Temple is on the site.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's.

David Adler, Mr/s. Charles A. Stonehill, Glencoe, Illinois, 1911. RAZED in the 1960s.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's. ENTRANCE.

David Adler, Stonehill (called Pierremont), Entrance Hall. The Stonehill family lived at the estate until the Crash of 1929.

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The Château de Balleroy is a seventeenth-century château in Balleroy, Normandy.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's.
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One of two stone rams at the entrance to courtyard at Stonehill mansion. Landscape architect Jens Jensen (1860-1951) designed several gardens at the mansion.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's. MUSIC ROOM.

David Adler, Mr/s. Charles A. Stonehill, Glencoe, Illinois, 1911. Music Room. Louis XVI paneling and parquet-de-Versailles flooring with Louis XV furnishings.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's.

Members of the Household Staff at the Charles A. Stonehill Estate. The mansion was demolished in the 1960s.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's.

Garden trellis at the Charles A. Stonehill estate in Glencoe, Illinois.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's.

Inspired by the Chateau de Balleroy in northern France, Charles A. Stonehill commissioned his son-in-law David Adler to design and build this Louis-XIII style building. Set high on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, this home was a popular weekend destination by many of Chicago’s elite in the 1910s.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's.

Members of the staff of The Charles A. Stonehill Estate on the beach.

David Adler Charles A Stonehill, 1911. RAZED 1960's.

David Adler, Mr/s. Charles A. Stonehill, Glencoe, Illinois, 1911. Drawing Room. Tuscan pilasters. Unique octagonal-shaped coffered ceiling.

Mrs. and Mrs. Ralph H. Poole, Lake Bluff, Illinois, 1912. Louis-XV style. Stands. 

Mr/s. Ralph H. POOLE, Lake Bluff, Illinois, 1912, STANDING.

Mr/s. Ralph H. POOLE, Lake Bluff, IL, 1912. Adler was influenced by François Mansart (1598-1666) for this early commissioned project.

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Floor plan, Poole house, Lake Bluff, Illinois, 1912. Adler placed the five main rooms along the rear of the house with the living room as the central gathering point.

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POOLE (Lake Bluff, IL), 1912. Adler’s interior is based on the Hôtel Biron in Paris (today’s Musée Rodin).

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POOLE (Lake Bluff, IL), 1912. Living room to music and dining rooms.

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POOLE (Lake Bluff, IL), 1912. Dining room.

Mrs. and Mrs. Charles B. Pike, 955 Lake Road, Lake Forest, Illinois. Built in 1916 in the Italian Villa style. Building stands. 

The house at 955 Lake Road in Lake Forest, Illinois, sits on Lake Michigan and is designed in the Italian villa style. Built in 1916 for Charles and Frances Pike, the 21-room house possesses one of Adler’s most successful outdoor spaces – the entrance Courtyard.

Creating paths using paving beach stones with embedded designs, this outdoor garden was encapsulated on four sides by the back wall of the house (the main entrance which faces the road) as well the Kitchen, classically-proportioned Entrance Loggia and fifty-foot-long Gallery.

The Courtyard was further integrated with the interior space where one enters the house’s main rooms from the Entrance Loggia into the Vestibule (with Adler’s masterful treatment of pediments and coffered ceiling) or by way of one of three sets of French doors with pilaster-supported archways into the vaulted Gallery.

In addition to the Vestibule and Gallery with its airy fifteen foot-tall ceilings, the interior first-floor plan of the Pike house contained the Living Room, Dining Room and East Loggia. Each of these main rooms was oriented to the balustraded landings of two staircases which led to an expansive sunken garden and towards Lake Michigan.  The second floor of the Pike house contained bedrooms.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest, Illinois. 1916. Entrance Facade.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Entrance Loggia.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Entrance Loggia, another view.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Courtyard.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Courtyard with view of his design of the pavement using beach stones creating an interplay of color, texture, and shape.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Vestibule. From the Entrance Loggia one enters the house’s main rooms into this Vestibule with Adler’s masterful treatment of pediments and coffered ceiling.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Gallery.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Living Room (or Library). The black stone fireplace mantel was the focal point of the room.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Living Room (or Library) in recent times.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Dining Room. The same size as the as the Living Room, the black terrazzo floor was consistent on the first floor, but Adler achieved greater intimacy with the beamed ceiling.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Dining Room today.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Garden/Main Facade. The house was inspired by Charles A. Platt’s Villa Turicum from 1908, but Adler turned the Pike house’s orientation to the Lake and away from the road.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Sunken Garden. Looking toward Lake Michigan.

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D. Adler. Pike House. Lake Forest. 1916. Garden/Main Facade today.

Mrs. and Mrs. Alfred E. Hamill, Lake Forest, Illinois. Built by Henry Dangler in 1914 in the Italian style and renovated by David Adler in 1917. Building stands. 

hamill 1

When Adler became involved in the project, the Hamill House added two bronze centaurs on pedestals at the foot of the driveway introducing its new brick and limestone forecourt. A more dramatic change was the installation of the false parapet that heightened the house and hid its tiled roof.

hamill 2

Adler added the library to the west wing with steps going down to it from the living room. Warm and inviting the library had tall walnut bookcases and a hemispherical niche. One door opened to a staircase leading to Hamill’s second-floor bedroom. The fireplace was detailed in black marble and limestone with a pediment mantel. Over time Adler directed interior changes that included a breakfast room and music room.

hamill 4

Into the 1920’s Hamill — an investment banker and the man who introduced Adler to involvement with the Museum of The Art Institute of Chicago — continued to make grandiose changes to his house. Some included adding a tower building and garage and servants’ quarters in the same Italian design as the main house. The tower stood almost seventy-five feet tall and  included Alfred Hamill’s study.

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Alfred Hamill’s study in the Italian-style tower by David Adler in the 1920’s is reminiscent of Napoleon’s tented study at Malmaison in France.

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Another of Hamill’s improvements in the 1920’s was a Palladian-designed Garden Pavilion with limestone open summerhouse and cylindrical posts encircled by stairs leading to a deck. Today the Hamill House as well as its tower and garden pavilion stand, but are separate properties.

Review: VAN GOGH’S BEDROOMS, The Art Institute of Chicago, February 14-May 10, 2016.

FEATURE image: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. “Netherlands-4024 – Van Gogh Gallery” by archer10 (Dennis) is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

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All three versions of Van Gogh’s The Bedroom at The Art Institute of Chicago, February 14 to May 10, 2016.

The photograph above depicts the three versions of Van Gogh’s “Bedroom” in Arles, France, in this blockbuster exhibition’s penultimate gallery.

From the collections (left to right) of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris (1889), The Art Institute of Chicago (1889), and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (1888).

The three masterworks were gathered together side by side in North America for the first time in art history.

By John P. Walsh. May 6, 2016.

I saw the Van Gogh’s Bedrooms exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago (February 14-May 10, 2016) on the last Friday afternoon before the show closed. The museum that day was drawing a large crowd and it was challenging to navigate through the multi-room art show in a mass of frequently immobile art lovers. Exactly for what cause some stationary patrons might be transfixed could only be speculated upon but often no art was present. No one I think comes to art shows to be caught in a logjam of people yet that recurrent phenomenon in Van Gogh’s Bedrooms soon became one of its unpleasant features. The expansive exhibition space—striking for its illogical reasoning to display three relatively small masterpieces—proved impractical, or at least a two-edged sword, in terms of containing its throngs.

Those three featured paintings are this show’s raison d’être and prove a marvelous highlight after reaching them by way of a dozen or so high-ceiling galleries. Once arrived to the show’s penultimate room, my eyes settled on the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam’s version as the most intriguing of the three superficially identical works. The other two versions are from the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

When 35-year-old Van Gogh painted his The Bedroom series starting in October 1888, the Dutchman had been an artist only a short while: about 7 years. This had followed a variety of other occupations, although Van Gogh began his professional life as an art dealer.  By late 1888—less than two years before his death by self-inflicted gunshot in Auvers-sur-Oise in July 1890—Van Gogh had traveled long and far from his beginnings in North Brabant. He arrived into Paris in 1885 to paint and join his brother Theo who was an avant-garde art dealer in the Rue Montmartre. Looking to sell more of his artwork, he began painting in the bright Impressionist style for which Van Gogh is probably most famous today.  By February 1888 Van Gogh relocated to Arles in the South of France on account of his health and to possibly start an art colony.  Still quite poor and alone, this roughly 15-month period in Arles proved to be prolific for the artist’s production when Van Gogh completed 200 paintings, and over 100 drawings and watercolors. Many of Van Gogh’s most famous works were created in this fecund period—for example, his portraits of Eugène Boch (Musée d’Orsay), Postman Joseph Roulin and Augustine Roulin (both Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)  and Madame Ginoux (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) among several others; sunflowers and irises such as Still Life: Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers (National Gallery, London), Still Life: Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers (Neue Pinakothek, Munich) and Irises (Getty Museum, Los Angeles); 15 canvases of cypresses; and his iconic Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin in the Harvard Art Museums.

None of these contextual artworks were in the Chicago show but demonstrate the range and depth of Van Gogh’s artistic vision in the same time period that The Bedrooms—which shared his body of work’s intoxication with color and decorative strategieswere painted. Despite its title—Van Gogh’s Bedrooms—this show is not content to let their presence in Chicago suffice. Instead, much of the other parts of this massive show were from the Art Institute’s permanent collection of mostly Barbizon and Impressionist artwork.  Perhaps if they had been left on whatever museum walls from which they had come, these fine artworks might have maintained an even greater impact for themselves and this show’s ultimate purpose than crowding them onto walls into this special exhibition space.  That said, the condensed interpretive curatorial exercise of parts of the permanent collection in this show could prove interesting for visitors who are not willing or able to visit other parts of the museum. In a show that took on the formula of a typical Regenstein Hall blockbuster, its propensity for Impressionist rehash (“delve” was the museum’s word) had a boring art textbook’s sensibility. That the show dipped into the museum storehouse to retrieve the life-size maquette of the Yellow House from AIC’s vastly superior exhibition Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South in 2001, produced a dispiriting effect on at least one viewer who recognized it. But so far I am quibbling: this AIC exhibition brings together the powerful canon of all three versions of Van Gogh’s The Bedroom for the first time in North America which is very special and undoubtedly sufficient to any museum goer’s time and interest. I don’t believe, however, that their full artistic power was best served by being able to see these objects intensely advertised in the media markets and then only hung at the show’s virtual end following a cacophony of mostly extraneous art historical resources however severely earnestly presented. Instead, a surfeit of front-loaded artistic riches labors to obscure these significant Van Goghs that finally appear in the second to last gallery, all of which are jam-packed with art, people, various filmic explorations, somewhat bloviating wall texts, whole house reconstructions, etc.

AMSR+TERDAM FINAL exh_vangogh-bedroom-Amsterdam_main_480

Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam,  October 1888. 72.4 x 91.3 cm.

CHGO Vincent van Gogh. The Bedroom, 1889. The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.exh_vangogh_bedroom_main_480

Chicago, 1889. 72.4 x 91.3 cm. Version Van Gogh painted in the asylum at St. Rémy.

PARIS FINAL exh_vangogh-bedroom_Paris_main_480

Paris, 1889. 57.5 x 74 cm. Destitute bachelor artist Van Gogh gave this version to his mother and sister to assure them in part that he was working..

It is certainly obvious that Van Gogh’s Bedrooms possibly could have benefited by not pulling out all the stops (AIC: “in-depth study”) but to focus on the three colorful masterpieces uniquely gathered in their essential power. If one wants to read blow by blow explanations of virtually every curatorial application in the show, one might turn to other reviews cited in “Further Reading” below. The equitably in-depth appreciation of this trio of Van Gogh worksand minus the Disney World trappingsmight be advanced using timed tickets (as done for Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South) and within a pared down and simpler exhibition scope. The way things are constructed by the show’s curator Gloria Groom, Chair of European Painting and Sculpture at The Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition transmits encyclopedic knowledge while largely missing a tangible evocation of bachelor Van Gogh’s humble petit boulevard persona who produced in Arles in 1888 and in Saint-Rémy in 1889 these bold canvases of his simple bedroom and even gifting one of the versions (the one now in Paris) to his aged mother and sister to reassure them in his destitution. For Van Gogh the motif of his private and hard-featured bedroom in Arles continued his bold self-expression in a tightly woven and complex painting composed in broad outlines using a many-hued post-impressionistic palette in thick impasto. Despite Van Gogh’s reputation as madhe mutilated his ear in this bedroom in December 1888he soon carried on painting two more versions of The Bedroom (the last one slightly reduced) with the apparent added intention to express to his family and friends that the artist was as stable and restful as his artistic subject.

What should an exhibition advertised as Van Gogh’s Three Bedrooms wish to have its spectators looking for and come away with? By the time a visitor reaches Van Gogh’s three paintings after plowing through the aforesaid gauntlet of people and well-known Chicago art resources, the exhibition almost runs the danger of displaying these highly-prized artworks not as denouement but incidental. These Van Gogh paintings are hardly allowed to speak freely for themselves. Of course they have a fascinating history but to what degree should these particular artworks’ written history be simultaneous to their exhibition? Thinking of the viewer, does the display of three paintings of an artist’s bedroom (albeit Vincent Van Gogh’s) that when placed side by side measures the whole of about ten feet across merit thousands of cubic feet of mostly academic groundwork before a viewer can even see them? To what degree are artistic exhibition and their intellectual exposition necessarily complementary since many museum art shows follow this tactic?

The final gallery after the display of the three bedrooms continued Van Gogh’s Bedrooms’ devotion to comprehensive information and theatricalityalthough a side-by-side blow-up of the bedrooms’ diverging painterly details was perhaps the most useful techie display so to appreciate the artist’s handling of the individual paintings. Yet it begged a question: could this orientation to detail, to seeing the painting, somehow serve as the exhibition’s primary or sole introduction, such as in a film theater? This last gallery then led directly to the ubiquitous and depressing gift shop hosting the galleries’ multitude disporting themselves basically as they did in and among the art. Hearing its timbre I wondered if a unique opportunity to view together these three Van Gogh bedroom paintings“the first time in North America”had under- or overplayed its hand? As its elemental objective, had the exhibition Van Gogh’s Bedrooms rightly oriented and imparted to its viewers an intimate and perhaps personally revealing look into these three sensitive treasures of Van Gogh’s oeuvre? Or had the artist Van Gogh merely omitted to paint into his own scene the proverbial kitchen sink?

FURTHER READING:

PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903) and the creation of Oviri (Savage), the Symbolist artist’s mysterious she-wolf figure exhibited in Paris in 1895.

FEATURE image: Paul Gauguin, Oviri (Savage),1894, stone, 75 x 19 x 27 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Public Domain.

By John P. Walsh

By 1887 French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) had created over 50 ceramic sculptures and carved several decorative panels. So it may be expected that during his interlude in Paris between 1893 and 1895 that he would create a woodcut based on his most recent and important discovery of this Paris interval—the hideous Oviri.

Gauguin made a large ceramic of Oviri (fig. 13) in the winter of 1894-1895. The Tahitian name translates as “wild” or “savage” and, a more recent interpretation, “turned into oneself.” The artist submitted it to the annual exhibition of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts for April 1895.

#4 Oviri Savage
fig.12. Paul Gauguin, Oviri (Savage), 1894 – woodcut printed in black on cream Japan laid paper, 8.03 x 4.56 inches (204 x 116 mm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Clarence Buckingham Collection.

Submitted, Rejected, Overridden

The ceramic, envisioned by the artist as a modern, savage funerary monument (fig.14), was rejected by the judges for inclusion into the salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Gauguin’s latest Tahiti-inspired art was deemed too ugly even by an organization of artists that, since its renewed inception in 1890, is seen as Europe’s first Secessionist movement. Although Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was a founding member of the group and since 1891 working on his commission from the Société de Gens Lettres for a Paris Balzac statue (that “obese monstrosity”), it was ceramist Ernst Chaplet who insisted on Gauguin’s admittance.56

When Gauguin discovered this mysterious figure who holds a blunted she-wolf, crushing the life out of her cub — occasionally understood as a symbol of female sexual potency — he did not let her go.55 In the print impression — and he made 19 prints from the same wood block, none of which are exactly alike — Gauguin’s Oviri is encountered in the primeval forest as inky blackness.

CHAPLET Paul Marsan, dit DORNAC (1858-1941)
Paul Marsan, called Dornac (1858-1941), photograph of Ernest Chaplet (Sèvres, 1836 – Choisy-le-Roi, 1909), octobre 21, 1904.
1024px-Oviri_on_the_Tomb_of_Gauguin
fig. 14. Bronze Oviri on the grave of Paul Gauguin on the Marquesan island of Hiva Oa.

Where exactly the ceramic Oviri was displayed in the salon is unclear, but its subsequent route into the collection of the Musée d’Orsay in 1987 is highly circuitous.57 Gauguin often exploited favorite images by repeating them in various media — and the ceramic transposed to the print depicts his idol showering a black light that blots out most of the natural reality around her.

In another Gauguin print from the time period that can fit in the palm of the hand, the artist offers a splendor of darkness, the mystery of a palm frond forest, and a stark confrontation with Oviri who is, as Gauguin described to Stéphane Mallarmé on the poet’s version of the print, “a strange figure, cruel enigma.”58

Les sculptures de Monsieur Rodin au Salon
Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1898.

NOTES:

  1. “turned into oneself” – Anne Pingeot, “Oviri,” in Gauguin Tahiti, George T.M. Shackelford and Claire Frèches-Thory, MFA Publications, 2004, p. 140; “symbol of female sexual potency” – Mathews, p. 203; Gauguin’s ceramic and carved panel output -Barbara Stern Shapiro, “Shapes and Harmonies of Another World,” in Gauguin Tahiti, George T.M. Shackelford and Claire Frèches-Thory, MFA Publications, 2004, pp. 117 and 126.
  2. 19 prints from one wood block – Shapiro, p. 126; savage, modern funerary monument – Mathews, p.208; first secessionist movement – Hans-Ulrich Simon, Sezessionismus. Kunstgewerbe in literarischer und bildender Kunst,: J. B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart ,1976, p. 47; Gauguin and the 1895 Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts salon – Mathews, p. 208; “obese monstrosity” – Grunfeld, Frederic V., Rodin:A Biography, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1987, p. 374.
  3. Anne Pingeot, “Oviri,” in Gauguin Tahiti, George T.M. Shackelford and Claire Frèches-Thory, MFA Publications, 2004, pp. 136-138.
  4. Quoted in Shapiro, Gauguin Tahiti, p. 128.
https://www.academia.edu/12845381/Savagery_in_Civilization_Paul_Gauguin_and_his_Tahiti-inspired_graphic_work_in_Paris_1893-1895

PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903): 3 monotypes produced in Paris, 1893-1895, inspired by Tahiti – Tahitians Fishing; Tahitian Landscape; Tahitian Idol-The Goddess Hina.

FEATURE Image: Paul Gauguin, Tahitian Idol-The Goddess Hina, 1894/95 – woodcut in black ink, over ochre and red, with touches of white and green inks, on tan wove paper, 5.78 x 4.72 inches (147 x 120 mm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Edward McCormick Blair collection.

By John P. Walsh

To take a look at a selection of three prints produced in Paris by Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) that were inspired by his long trip to Tahiti from 1891 to 1893—and followed by his return there in 1895 until his death in 1903— elucidates both his artistic ideas and methods and techniques he used to produce them in this time period unique to his career.

Ever the consummate craftsman—even Gauguin’s modern art critics largely conceded his graphic arts expertise—his traced monotypes (also called watercolor transfer drawings or printed drawings) employed a simple but creatively unique process to offset his watercolor or gouache designs onto paper.

The first step in Gauguin’s process was to place slightly damp paper over his hand-drawn design and with the pressure he exerted from the back of an ordinary spoon the moisture in the paper and the water-based medium worked to transfer the reverse image of the design onto the paper. Gauguin could then reprint his design so that each would be variable images, imparting a pale, soft value to the work — outcomes that the artist sought for these Tahitian pieces.

By 1898, having returned to Tahiti, Gauguin created a new print medium which was essentially a reversal of early Renaissance silverpoint. His new technique required Gauguin to apply a coat of ink to one sheet of paper, place a second sheet over it, and draw on the top sheet with pencil or crayon. The pressure of the drawing instrument transferred the ink from the first sheet of paper onto the back or verso side of the top sheet. Gauguin greatly admired his technical discovery and considered it an expression of “childlike simplicity.”

Fig.1 . Tahitians Fishing, 1893/5 – watercolor and black ink, over pen and brown ink, on vellum laid down on brown wove paper, 9.84 x 12.48 inches (250 x 317 mm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Edward McCormick Blair collection.  

1-Tahitians Fishing

In the first print to be seen, Tahitians Fishing is a small work (fig. 1). Its figures are flat, with little modeling or detail. The impact created is one of a dream. Gauguin presents a primitive world that is half-naked and childlike. In its Synthetist elements, it is reminiscent of a major painting he completed the year before, Fatata te Miti (By the Sea) (fig.2) It shares its flat colors, abstract shapes, and unbroken curves uniting to make an integrated decorative pattern.

Fig. 2. Gauguin, Fatata te Miti (By the Sea), 1892, oil on canvas, 67.9 x 91.5 cm (26 3/4 x 36 in.), The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Yet Tahitians Fishing is a sketch. It is divided into distinct zones like Day of the Gods (Mahana No Atua) (fig.3) created by Gauguin in the same years in Paris. The print shows a grassy foreground and sea/vegetation/sandy shore that creates two horizontal zones. These are bisected by a dominant vertical (a tree) that divides the piece into informal quadrants. The tree, a powerful element, is a void―a space of black ink―while its branches and roots are delineated with the same facile modeling as the rest of the composition. The pair of main roots and twelve or so ancillary roots sit ambiguously atop the grassy foreground with its childlike delineation of blades and sinks into sandy soil. The tree surrounds a naked squatting female, her bare breasts exposed. Is she hiding herself from a second woman working with a net in the area of sand and sea? This second worker is aided by three others who are perhaps completely nude figures that stand waist deep in water. Two are male but the third figure’s sex is uncertain as s/he is turned so the viewer sees only a naked back.  There is very little personality to the figures. They are, instead, composition elements like cartoons.

Fig.3. Gauguin, Day of the Gods (Mahana No Atua), 1894, oil on canvas, 26 7/8 x 36 in. (68.3 x 91.5 cm), The Art Institute of Chicago.

Gauguin’s visual image and text searches and reflects European Symbolism and Tahiti to create a new hybrid

In the time Gauguin was making Tahitians Fishing, he was working on the text and suite of ten wood block prints for his book Noa Noa. Tahitians Fishing also involves text and the visual image. Gauguin places a verse by living French Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) into a visual work about Tahiti. This artistic admixture could be part of Gauguin’s reaction to one of Symbolist art’s major indictments by naturalist modern art critics ― that it is preoccupied with ideas and should be subsumed exclusively into the domain of literature.41

Gauguin’s literary career began in the midst of this critical argument that predated his first departure to Tahiti and maintained itself at his return. From an artist who confronted disparate parts to create something new, Tahitians Fishing is a hybrid piece of Symbolist literary and visual elements using Gauguin’s obsession with Tahiti as its unifying theme. It indicates that the artist was reflecting on his Tahitian art, if not searching for more. Many Paris critics believed his art confused East and West. Gauguin gives validity to that belief by putting a poem at the top of the sheet in its own artistic “zone” and not straying into the visual image itself or making letters into art. While his pillaging from the Western world could set Gauguin’s critics alight, sympathizers saw his juxtapositions as a productive and creative artistic strategy.42 Verlaine’s nature poem ― “Qu’as-tu fait, ô toi que voilà/Pleurant sans cesse./Dis, qu’as tu fait, toi que voilà/De ta jeunesse?”43 ―provides another facet to Gauguin’s imposition of the Edenic dimension of good and evil onto the image.

Tahitians Fishing tested Gauguin’s powers to illustrate text which he was working on for Noa Noa, a phrase that means “perfume.” The Man with the Ax (fig.4), a print from this Paris period (1892/94)  is a complex of thinned gouache and pen and black ink over pen and brown ink on dark tan wove paper and laid down on cream Japanese paper. At approximately 12 x 9 inches it is – by virtue of its tripartite landscape, stooping figure and monumental and vertical figure enclosed in Cloisonnist dark contour – a retrospective of work done in Tahiti between 1891 and 1893.

Fig. 4. Gauguin, Man with an Ax, 1891/93, thinned gouache with pen and black ink, over pen and brown ink on cream wove paper (discolored to tan), laid down on cream Japanese paper, 317 x 228 mm, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Tahitians Fishing is new as it reflects Tahiti and adds a contemporary French Symbolist text. It contains similarities in composition, theme, and figures to the forward-looking painting Day of the Gods. Both share the image of a “Savage Eve” figure which obsessed Gauguin throughout 1893 to 189544 and both have a dominant central vertical―a tree in Tahitians Fishing and an idol in Day of the Gods.  Each has distinct horizontal zones and ground-and-water block-like forms. Even the amoeba-shaped waters in Day of the Gods are reflected in the steeply pitched water-as-sky in Tahitians Fishing. Maurice Denis identified Gauguin by his bright, unnatural colors45, but this exercise piece is more than that. It explores compositional forms and themes of his Tahitian and Synthetist works and includes avant-gardist French Symbolist verse. Gauguin’s work in these pieces is not always simply, as Julien Leclerq wrote in December 1894, “(the) transposing into another medium motifs from his Tahitian works.”46 Gauguin may have used this particular Verlaine poem if he was anywhere outside Paris, but it seems less likely. He continued to experiment with mixing text and visual image, a courageous act in the face of conservative critics who, with artists Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne, castigated Gauguin for the repetitive elaboration and recombination of pictorial ideas. On the recto side of this work no signature of any sort is detectable.

2-Tahitian Landscape

As Belgian critic Emile Verhaeren saw him, Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903) produces “child art.”47 The artist’s anagram “P.Go.” looms large in the lower left hand corner making it plain that the 46-year-old Gauguin made this print. Gauguin’s use of color and form are significant as they build up the image of five women in a landscape―two foreground figures more fully defined than the three figures merging into the background. It is ambiguous whether it is a channel of water or grass that separates the two foreground women who appear to perform a rite of worship and a trio in conversation or, as Richard Brettell interprets, dancing.48 As the Seine flows through Paris where Gauguin created this print, there exists in Tahitian Landscape (fig. 5) a commentariat on the Right Bank and artisans spilling blood in their offerings on the Left Bank. Modeling of the three women has affinities with Ta Matete of 1892 (fig.6) as Gauguin uses the same flat, static figures that have been traced to Egyptian painting with the ethnological implication that the Polynesians’ origins are in mankind’s oldest civilizations.49

Fig. 5. Paul Gauguin, Tahitian Landscape, 1894 – watercolor monotype, with brush and watercolor, on cream wove paper, 8.66 x 9.72 inches (220 x 247 mm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Edward McCormick Blair collection.
Fig. 6. Gauguin, Ta Matete (The Market), 1892, 28.7 x 36.2″ (73 x 92 cm), Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel.

Continual rhythm or “musicality” of bodily contours with intervening empty space gives Tahitian Landscape a Synthetist sensibility to the figures while its overall Symbolist ambiguity is a result of pale color and de-emphasized form. The figure of the woman on her knees to the right is engaged in a ritual bathing as Brettell believes or may be bowing before a vague natural stone construct (Brettel, however, denies any hint of religion). A pool of red flows at, or under, her chest that may represent bathing water as Brettell offers or perhaps a hint of light or shadow or, more intensely, the figure’s blood. Red appears again in one of the three dancing figures. In this landscape Gauguin allows for several possible interpretations.

Gauguin presents a scene of bewilderment, ambiguity, and mystery

Under close examination the artist seems to encourage bewilderment by producing a scene of ambiguity and mystery. If Gauguin acted as an ethnologist―as art critic and historian Roger Marx compared him in November 1893 – it would be impossible for the artist to depict an authentic blood sacrifice in Tahiti since, in the 1890s, it was prohibited by French law. The artist then dreams a scene in a Tahitian setting of a woman and her associates offering a savage blood sacrifice to a stone god. This piece asks questions about Gauguin’s attitude for Tahiti and sheds light on some of his deepest desires in Paris. The formulation of the sky, waters, and ground create a Synthetist landscape but it is the Symbolist figures and the mystery surrounding their presence that is the central power of the work. This use of mysterious figures in a landscape is found in Gauguin’s previous  work in Martinique (“the land of the Creole gods”50 he wrote in a letter) and in Brittany (figs. 7 and 8).

fig. 7. Gauguin, By the Sea, oil on canvas, signed and dated at lower left, P. Gauguin 87, 18 1/8 x 24 in. (46 x 61 cm), private collection, Paris.
Fig. 8. Gauguin, Be Mysterious, 1890, low relief, polychrome lime tree wood 73 x 95 x 5 cm., Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

In Tahitian Landscape, on the other side of the green, blue, and peach-color chasm heavily outlined on the right and halted by a built-up “shore,” the three dancing women who are barely modeled or detailed appear to be observed by an idol figure. It lies in blue shadow in dense foliage and is nearly invisible. As in Tahitians Fishing (see part 2 of “Savagery in Civilization…” ) it is by way of foliage, boulders, and rounded forms of the landscape that there emerges a similarity with the jigsaw puzzle-like lagoon in that same year’s Day of the Gods. However, the forms in Tahitian Landscape are flatter and less organic-looking.  As popular graphic art methods could not produce the deliberately pale character of the surface Brettell proposes that this image was made as a transfer or counterproof on wetted paper from a now lost watercolor matrix.51

3- Tahitian Idol-The Goddess Hina

For some pieces of graphic art Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903) uses the moniker “P.Go.” to sign them.52  In Tahitian Idol-The Goddess Hina (fig.9, at top of the blog post), the moniker is present in the lower left corner slightly on its side. While Day of the Gods, painted in Paris in 1894 at the same time as the woodcut, received a simple signature of “Gauguin” (the painting was not exhibited in the artist’s lifetime), Gauguin sometimes used these new graphic art works as “image translations” to explain his Tahitian art to the Parisian public. This may explain the pretension of the anagram here.53

443px-Paul_Gauguin_-_Parau_na_te_Varua_ino_(1892)
fig.10. Gauguin, Parau na te Varua ino (Words of the Devil), 1892, oil on canvas, 91.7 × 68.5 cm (36 1/8 × 25 15/16 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Artist’s obsession with representations of the primitive and “savage”

Gauguin’s obsession with the primitive, the savage, is evident in this work. The small woodcut is an image of a Tahitian goddess where the composition’s diverse elements congeal to a single mask to be held in the palm of one’s hand. Goddess Hina, immobile and august, is fitted into the composition as a first among equals. A tree fills the left border like a totem with a V-formed sprout. At the woodcut’s top border – and peering out of a branch at the tree trunk’s crux – is a profile of an evil spirit represented by a head. The grassy hair of the goddess fills about half the background and falls to nestle by her left arm. Gauguin uses several stock elements in different attitudes or positions. For example, he used the evil head in the 1892 painting Parau na te Varua ino (Words of the Devil) (fig.10) and this woodcut’s symbolism likewise remains complex. In the woodcut, to Goddess Hina’s right and immediately below the malevolent spirit who materializes in strange and frightening humanoid forms, appear abstracted forms of a coiled snake and other ceremonial visages. Goddess Hina is primitive and statuesque whereas the evil head possesses a sinister aspect with circles that serve as open eyes.

When Gauguin wrote from Tahiti in March 1899 to Belgian Symbolist poet and critic André Fontainas with reflections on the South Seas, he expressed strong feelings of awe, personal vigil, and dream-like vision. Such qualities must have been experienced on his first Tahiti trip for they permeate a work like Tahitian Idol – The Goddess Hina:

“Here near my hut, in utter silence, I dream of violent harmonies in the natural fragrances that exhilarate me. A pleasure heightened by an indefinable sacred awe which I divine towards the immemorial. In bygone days, an odor of joy that I breathe in the present. Animal figures in statuesque rigidity: something inexpressibly old, august, religious in the rhythm of their gesture, in their rare immobility. In dreaming eyes, the cloudy surface of an unfathomable enigma. And here is nightfall – everything is at rest. My eyes close in order to see without understanding the dream in the infinite space that recedes before me, and I have a sense of the doleful march of my hopes.”54

paul-gauguin-7 hut
Paul Gauguin’s hut in Tahiti – Jules Agostini (1859-1930), December 31, 1904. Bibliothèque nationale de France.

In a work of approximately 5 x 4 inches―and its small size in no way diminishes its artistic force―Gauguin achieves in Tahitian Idol-The Goddess Hina a craftsman’s unity of good and evil in nature. Before his first visit to Tahiti Gauguin already had familiarity with this theme of nature’s duality for he uses it in his 1889 painting Self-Portrait (fig. 11) where halo and snake vie within and for creation.

smaller self portrait
fig.11. Gauguin, Self-Portrait, 1889, oil on wood, 79.2 x 51.3 cm (31 3/16 x 20 3/16 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
507px-brooklyn_museum_-_tahitian_woman_-_paul_gauguin_-_overallfixed
PAUL GAUGUIN, Tahitian Woman, 1894?, irregularly shaped; charcoal and pastel, selectively stumped, and worked with brush and water on wove “pasted” paper, glued to secondary support of yellow wove paper mounted on gray millboard. The Brooklyn Museum. A pastel where Gauguin subverted the medium.
young-christian-girl
PAUL GAUGUIN The Young Christian Girl, 15 3/8 x 18 inches, oil on canvas, Clark Institute Art Institute, Massachusetts. Gauguin painted this work in Northern France fusing imagery from his recent experiences in Tahiti. She is shown in a dress similar to those brought by Christian missionaries to the South Sea Islands.

NOTES:

  1. Marlais, p.99.
  2. Salvesen, p. 51.
  3. “What have you done – you who are Forever crying? Speak! What have you done – you who are so young?” – my translation.
  4. Brettell, p. 332.
  5. Crepaldi, Gabriele, trans. Sylvia Tombesi-Walton, Gauguin, Dorling Kindersley, London, 1998, p. 97.
  6. quoted in Barbara Stern Shapiro, “Shapes and Harmonies of Another World,” in Gauguin Tahiti, George T.M. Shackelford and Claire Frèches-Thory, MFA Publications, 2004, p.131.
  1. Thomson, Gauguin, p. 130.
  2. Brettell, p. 359.
  3. Thomson, Gauguin, p. 152.
  4.  Brettell, p. 80;  “denies any hint of religion” and “bathing water”- Brettell, p. 359. Brettell’s denial here of Tahitian religion does not preclude his proposing that the bowing figure may be an adaptation of the naked and penitent Magdalen at the foot of the cross, which is part of Catholic tradition.
  5. Ibid., p. 359.
  1. Brettell., p. 330.
  2. Ibid., p. 330.
  3. Delevoy, Robert L., Symbolists and Symbolism, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., New York, 1982, page 54.
https://www.academia.edu/12845381/Savagery_in_Civilization_Paul_Gauguin_and_his_Tahiti-inspired_graphic_work_in_Paris_1893-1895

Savagery In Civilization: PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903) and his Tahiti-inspired graphic art In Paris, 1893-1895.

FEATURE image: Gauguin, Self-Portrait with Palette, winter 1893-94 or 1894-95, 92 x 73 cm (35 7/8 x 28 1/2 in.), private collection.

self portrait  1893-94 oil on canvas Dorsay 18x15 in 46 x 38 cm FIXED
Paul Gauguin, Self-Portrait, 1893-1894. Oil on canvas, 18 x 15 in. (46 x 38 cm), Musée D’Orsay, Paris. The artist portrays himself in his new studio in Paris painted in bright colors with exotic decor including a blue and yellow sarong at the lower right. Behind him is his Manau Tupapau (The Spirit of the Dead Keeps Watch, Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery) painted in the South Pacific in 1892.

By John P. Walsh

In May 1894 during a working visit to Brittany filled with nostalgia, a 45-year-old Paul Gauguin broke his leg above the ankle in a scuffle with sailors in broad daylight. In France just nine months after being away in French Polynesia for over two years, Gauguin was spotted playing the role of bohemian artist in Concarneau, an old fishing port which had become a busy international art colony. Gauguin made an attractive target in his outlandish attire and shoulder-length hair huddled with a coterie of young art disciples, a pet monkey, and a Ceylonese child mistress whose dark skin offended late-nineteenth-century social norms as much as her age.1  

scan gauguin map 001NEW FIXED
Map of Brittany in northwestern France showing the principal sites where Gauguin and other avant-garde artists lived and worked in the late 1880s and 1890s.

Exhibiting his penchant for questioning prevailing assumptions and bringing to Brittany the easy sexual standards he experienced in Tahiti, a dissolute Gauguin now paid for his personal freedom with serious bodily harm. The violent incident added to the changed relations Gauguin found for himself in France since his return to his homeland in late August 1893. After his 27-month artistic exile in the middle of the South Pacific starting in April 1891, the midcareer artist strove to re-establish ties among dealers, critics, collectors and artists in Paris. He had a misguided anticipation for sales of his new Tahitian paintings based on his past artistic triumphs and the handful of new Tahiti work he sent ahead of his arrival into France for exhibition in Paris to carry his objectives forward.In Brittany Gauguin’s injury required him to be hospitalized and put on morphine and alcohol as pain killers for a two-month recuperation. By late August 1894 Gauguin’s leg had healed where he traveled to nearby Quimper for his assailants’ trial. The artist had sued the ruffians for 3,000 francs, but local justice meted out a small fine.3

Gauguin did not rest on his laurels or his recent injury. Rather, since his return to France, Gauguin engaged himself almost nonstop in self-promotion on behalf of his new Tahitian art portfolio. During his recuperation Gauguin found he was unable to paint in his first full summer back in France in 1894. This was a hard irony since in his Tahitian work between 1892 and 1893 Gauguin was primarily a painter. In summer 1894 he turned to work exclusively on wood cuts and monotypes (the latter art form also called transfer drawings, watercolor transfer drawings, printed drawings, and traced monotypes). Working alone and with other artists from the Pont-Aven group, Gauguin experimented with new images, new arrangements and new applications without committing anything to oil. These print techniques ―different from etching which Gauguin found too dainty― afforded him the painterly effects, unusual textures and distorted forms that he sought and which his opponents in the modern art world vocally despised. For the sake of this post’s length and logic, a fuller presentation of four of these “savage” prints which Gauguin finished in Paris between 1893 and 1895 (among scores of others) can be discovered in a separate blog post. Excluding the collective power of his ten large and earliest woodcuts made for Noa Noa, no works of graphic art by Gauguin in this Paris period are more mysterious than the ones this article will consider – namely, Tahitians Fishing (involving Savage Eves), Tahitian Landscape (blood sacrifices), Tahitian Idol – The Goddess Hina (vying spirits in the natural world) and Oviri based on Gauguin’s ceramic sculpture.

#1 TAHITIANS FISHING
TAHITIANS FISHING, 1893/5 – watercolor and black ink, over pen and brown ink, on vellum laid down on brown wove paper, 9.84 x 12.48 inches (250 x 317 mm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Edward McCormick Blair collection.
#2 TAHITIAN LANDSCAPE
TAHITIAN LANDSCAPE, 1894 – watercolor monotype, with brush and watercolor, on cream wove paper, 8.66 x 9.72 inches (220 x 247 mm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Edward McCormick Blair collection.
#3 TAHITIAN IDOL-THE GODDESS HINA
TAHITIAN IDOL – THE GODDESS HINA, 1894-95 – woodcut in black ink, over ochre and red, with touches of white and green inks, on tan wove paper, 5.78 x 4.72 inches (147 x 120 mm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Edward McCormick Blair collection.
#4 Oviri Savage
OVIRI (SAVAGE), 1894 – woodcut printed in black on cream Japan laid paper, 8.03 x 4.56 inches (204 x 116 mm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Clarence Buckingham Collection.

In November 1894 when Gauguin was able to return from Brittany to Paris he opened the door to his studio to find that its two rooms had been ransacked save for own art work. It had been the undertaking of Gauguin’s Ceylonese mistress, called Annah la Javanaise, who had exacted her sense of savage justice on the man from France for her services.4

GAUGUIN firends 001FIXED
Gauguin’s Studio at 6 rue Vercingétorix in Paris. Gauguin is seated at left in the broad brimmed hat. Behind him is artist Paul Sérusier with Annah la Javanaise. Standing in the black hat is painter Georges Lacombe. The two musicians are Fritz Schnedklud (center) and Larrivel (right). Photograph: Musée Gauguin, Papeari.

Following his passage from Tahiti into France on August 30, 18935, Paul Gauguin, virtually penniless, stayed in Paris with art historian Émile Schuffenecker with whom he had been estranged and by more than the High Seas.6 From fall 1892 into early spring 1893 Gauguin had been sending to Paris his new work from Tahiti ―nine canvases in total – including his first portrait of a Tahitienne, namely, Vahine no te Tiare of 1892 which today hangs in Copenhagen. Displayed in the Boulevard Montmartre gallery of Boussod, Valadon & Cie (the former Goupil & Cie),7  critical reaction to the portrait which was so important to Gauguin turned out to be mixed.8 The portrait might have served as a bellwether to Gauguin and those who paid attention to his work. Its tepid, divided response would mark the reception he received for his much larger Tahitian oeuvre in Paris between 1893 and 1895.

vahine no te tiare
Gauguin, Vahine No te Tiare (Woman with Flower), 1891. Oil on canvas, 70 x 46 cm, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

While Edgar Degas spoke well of and invested in Gauguin’s work, the two were not personally close.9 It was in conversation with younger artists and one older artist, Odilon Redon, that in January or February 1890 Gauguin was inspired to pursue the idea of a “Studio of the Tropics.” Although Redon by late summer of 1890 told Gauguin he was against his leaving France – whether to Madagascar, as first entertained, or as it happened, to Tahiti in April 1891, Gauguin was clearly not persuaded. Redon was convinced that Gauguin’s artistic development in Europe would be significant and appealed to Gauguin to reconsider.10 Gauguin wrote to Redon from Le Pouldu in September of 1890:

“…The reasons you give me for staying in Europe are more flattering than they are likely to convince me. My mind is made up…I judge that my art, which you like, is only a seedling thus far, and out there I hope to cultivate it…Here, Gauguin is finished, and nothing more will be seen of him…”11

In Tahiti Gauguin made his home in Papeete and soon after in Mataiea before he returned to Paris two years and three months later in August 1893. He stayed in the French capital  for twenty-two months until a second departure for Tahiti in June 1895 when this time, indeed, nothing more would be seen of him (“My design, Gauguin wrote, “(is) to bury myself in the South Sea Islands.”)12 It could not be known until December 1894 that Gauguin had decided to return to Tahiti – although in 1894 his letters expressed longing for it.13 His time in Paris possessed a “liminal” quality in that he occupied a position at or on both sides of a boundary or threshold of Tahiti. From 1893 to 1895 in Paris Gauguin had two distinct worlds to draw on and consider for his art – one, an echo of Redon’s advice in 1890 to develop artistically in Europe and two, his memory of Tahiti from 1891 to 1893. The South Seas had imparted to Gauguin new images for him to paint that he could not find in France – and he worked to promote these discoveries and ruminate on them in current work. Unlike Brittany of which the artist was fond, Tahiti surrounded Gauguin with a strangeness that allowed his imagination to take greater hold of the mystery, savagery, and otherness that he increasingly sought to express in his artistic work. Both worlds can be found in Gauguin’s  art of this Paris period –  Tahiti in the new images based on primitiveness and savagery and France in the forms of Symbolism and Synthetism that Gauguin learned and helped lead after 1888. Each of these worlds – one definitely savage and the other civilized or also savage based on one’s art critical perspective in early 1890s Paris – informed the other in formal terms and the impressions inspired by the artist’s dreams, exaggerations and inventions.

Paul Gauguin had come back to France actually intending to stay14 but as time passed his connection to the faraway islands became too strong to forsake. At Café Escoffier in Paris on December 7, 1894, Gauguin announced his return to Tahiti and left France forever the following year. In those 660 days in France Gauguin worked to force rapid public acceptance of his work and ended up being all but shunned by the French public. Gauguin brought to Tahiti in 1891 the experience of all the art he had made in the late 1880s with Vincent Van Gogh in Arles and with Émile Bernard and Paul Sérusier in Brittany as well as his deep admiration for Redon’s noirs.  Primitive culture in Polynesia, while truncated and absorbed into French rule, appealed to him and in the Paris interlude Gauguin obsessed about the island in his literature and art.15

Paul_Gauguin-_Manao_tupapau_(The_Spirit_of_the_Dead_Keep_Watch)
Gauguin. Manao Tupapau (Spirit of the Dead Watching), 1892. Oil on canvas. 28 1/2 x 36 3/8 in. (72.5 x 92.5 cm), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

Gauguin took the initiative to woo the French art-buying public and even the State to embrace the sixty-six paintings that comprised his Tahitian portfolio. His failure to take Paris by storm in this period― book-ended by a two-week commercial exhibition at Durand-Ruel’s in November 1893 and a Drouot auction on February 18, 1895 ―is blamed for his leaving for Tahiti the second and final time. These disappointments had a financial bearing – he sold only eleven of forty-one paintings from Tahiti at Durand-Ruel’s and just nine out of forty seven works at the Hôtel Drouot – but their apathetic reception affected more than a mercantile Gauguin. It is a historical irony that one of Gauguin’s unsold Tahitian paintings from this period – his 1892 double portrait “Nafea Faa Ipoipo” (When Will You Marry?)” – was sold in February 2015 by a Swiss family foundation to a group of state museums in Qatar for a record nearly $300 million. In 1893 the artist priced it at no higher than 3,000 francs or about $15,000 in 2015 dollars.

101.5 x 77.5 cm; Öl auf Leinwand; Inv. Dep 105
Gauguin, Nafea faa ipoipo (When Will You Marry Me?), oil on canvas, 101 by 77 cm (40 in × 30 in.).

In art work Gauguin was preparing for the public and for his private rumination he continued his “searching deep within himself”16 begun in Tahiti with its exotic theme being paramount. Throughout the period of 1893 to 1895, in Paris and in Brittany, Gauguin escaped into a Tahitian world of his own imaginings by way of his highly experimental graphic work.17 Gauguin brought to Paris with him his notes and sketch books from Tahiti and meditated on them during the course of his Paris sojourn. He thought of these mementos as “my letters, my secrets”18 and one wonders about his intention to commercially exhibit these trial works. In summer 1894 Gauguin gave away some of his watercolors19 and while this action may serve as a memento or payment to a friend, it points to a tentativeness with which Gauguin viewed these first works. “The world I am discovering,” Gauguin wrote in a letter months later, “is a Paradise the outlines of which I shall have merely sketched out and between the sketch and the realization of the vision there is a long way to go.”20

Aside from around fifteen paintings he did in France from 1893 to 1895, Gauguin’s work is mainly (with some overlap in art forms) in the graphic arts and literature, including Noa Noa, Ancien Culte Mahorie, and Cahier Pour Aline. Starting in Paris during this period and until his death in May 1903, Gauguin worked to transform himself from an artist to an artist and writer. The general idea for this effort was not original to Gauguin; it may even be a reaction to his critics who derided him as a “writer’s painter” – that is, one who obscured his instinctive painterly talent with literary or ideal concerns. Criticism of Gauguin’s art for this specific reason was deep and extensive in 1890s France by many leading intellectuals who favored the prevailing Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist art forms which promoted a naturalist and modernist art and that Gauguin had abandoned in the late 1880s. Gauguin angered and annoyed artists and critics and they derided his current work forcefully. According to Félix Fénéon Gauguin’s art was unnatural, irrational and illogical and constituted a step backwards for modern art which had staked a secular, democratic, and progressive course. For Camille Pissarro and Impressionist artists such as Paul Signac – Gauguin’s Synthetist and Symbolist styles and forms were retrograde and should be actively resisted. “Let us study Delacroix, Corot, Puvis, Manet and leave those (other) humbugs to their own devices,”21 wrote Signac in 1895 about Monsieur Gauguin.

GAUGUIN DR 001FIXED
Gauguin, three wooden sculptures exhibited at Durand Ruel’s in November 1893. Photography Georges Chaudet. Gauguin’s commercial exhibition at Durand-Ruel’s included 41 Tahitian paintings, 3 Brittany paintings, 1 ceramic and wood sculptures called “tiis.”

Although brief and contentious, Paris turned out to be a productive time for Gauguin’s art.22 In December 1893 following decent sales after his exhibition at Durand-Ruel’s, Gauguin wrote from Paris to his wife Mette in Copenhagen and pointedly did not discuss his earnings which likely netted him about 10,000 francs – or $50,000 in 2015 dollars.23 Gauguin talked around the money issue to reflect on his attitude for any future art world gambit which would likely be undertaken immediately. “My show,” Gauguin wrote to his faraway spouse, “has not in fact given the results that might have been expected but we must look facts in the face…The most important thing is that my exhibition had a very great artistic success, has even provoked passion and jealousy. The press has treated me …rationally, with words of praise. For the moment I am considered by many people to be the greatest modern painter.”24

Many viewers, however, were perplexed by the artist’s refusal to translate into French the Tahitian titles found in scores of his paintings. Others were amused by the bohemian role he had assumed for himself in astrakhan hat and gilet. Gauguin was obsessed with exhibiting his major Tahitian paintings, continuing to produce that kind of work in Paris and trying to explain this portfolio to the public through his studio invitations, writings, and “image translations.” He wanted to see his Tahitian work conquer the Paris art world.25 While many Parisians did not accept or understand Gauguin’s Tahiti art they were fascinated by it. The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago opened in May 1893 and closed just ten days before Gauguin’s Tahiti show opened at Durand-Ruel’s. The Chicago Fair, inspired by the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition, showcased ethnological “villages” that attracted nearly thirty million people. Despite a set course for Impressionism as the parameter for modern art, Gauguin’s cutting-edge Tahiti art could not be ignored completely by Parisians who felt an intense curiosity about exotic locales, especially French Polynesia.26 In Paris Gauguin showed himself to be tireless to capitalize on this current passion. In his letters he ceaselessly complains, justifies his every action, demands extraordinary things of others and lays grand plans for himself because he believed his artistic career was on the verge of greatness but frustratingly incomplete. He poured his energy into his several artistic exhibitions in Paris and elsewhere, produced critical articles and letters for journals, and began to pull together his Tahiti adventures to write Noa Noa with his occasional friend Charles Morice. Morice added a preface, a chapter entitled “Songeries,” as well as the poems. Portions of  Noa Noa (“pleasing fragrance”) appeared for the first time in La Revue Blanche, between October 15 and November 1, 1897, more than two years after Gauguin returned to Tahiti. Yet Gauguin used the writing project in late 1893 to excuse himself from traveling to Copenhagen to see his wife Mette.27 

charles morice 1893 Eugene Carriere
Eugène Carrière, Portrait of Charles Morice, 1893 Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 38.5 cm, Clemens Sels Museum, Neuss, Germany.
Gauguin, Portrait of Mette, 1877, The Courtauld Gallery, London.

In Paris Gauguin produced a slew of graphic work and some painting and sculpture. His message from the French capital to his far off wife was interchangeable with what it had been from Tahiti: “I am up to my neck in work!” and that he needed money.28 Regardless of his committed efforts at self-promotion and artistic expansion in Paris – including all aspects of publicity, catalog production, and stock preparation for his Tahiti exhibitions as well as mending fences with old friends and rejoining social networks such as Stéphane Mallarmé’s “les jeudis”29  – criticism and sales receipts did not fulfill the artist’s hopes for his new art. Following Durand-Ruel’s, Gauguin in January 1894 rented a two-room studio on Rue Vercingétorix and fills it with his unsold art that amounted to dozens of paintings and sculptures as well as his current work, some flea-market exotica, and an ethnographic collection. He famously decorated the walls in chrome yellow and olive green―reminiscent of Pierre Loti’s residence in western France with its valuable Far Eastern art collection30― and invited friends to share in his les mardis where they played music, told travel stories, and the host read from his work-in-progress, Noa Noa. 31

GAUGUIN DR 001 FIXED
Courtyard apartment, 6 rue Vercingétorix, in the Montparnasse section of Paris, around the time of Gauguin’s residence. The location is difficult to imagine in modern Paris today.

One question asked about Gauguin’s Tahitian and Tahitian-inspired oeuvre was which of it is strictly Tahitian and which is western influenced – or, what is direct observation and what is artifice? Exceptional global coordinates did not prevent Gauguin’s first Tahitian experience from 1891 to 1893 to have a European and specifically French flavor. At Durand-Ruel’s exhibition one critic traced the origins of Gauguin’s Ia Orana Maria of 1891, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, to a late-1870s work by Jules Bastien-Lepage. In the French press he scoffed at Gauguin’s canvas as “nothing but a Bastien-Lepage done Tahitian style.”32 This sort of critical charge underscores the ground-breaking nature of Gauguin’s art as it introduced primitivism into the European cosmopolitan avant-garde at the turn of the century. Tahiti was an official French colony since 1880 and like most Frenchmen Gauguin had little to no knowledge of its indigenous beliefs and customs. Further, he found no indigenous cultural artifacts during his first stay although he did late in his stay discover published sources for indigenous objects and practices that influenced his art by way of a Belgian scholar.33 In addition to Gauguin’s main artistic threat at “terrorizing reality” and creating ugly art as Fénéon and others strongly postulated, the challenge to Gauguin’s lack of direct observation of Tahitian subject matter or overall Tahitian expertise helped to dismiss his new art as “inauthentic.” Gauguin’s personal life was also fodder for criticism by his artistic enemies. For instance, that it was discovered that Gauguin procured his exotic mistress, Annah la Javanaise, only after his return to Paris stealing her from a French singer after meeting her possibly through art dealer Ambroise Vollard lent an almost boorish air to his art-world bearing. That after 1895 Annah la Javanaise became Alphonse Mucha’s mistress in the same building in which she ransacked Gauguin’s studio in August or September 1894, was a further curiosity.34  

Perhaps to be expected from leading Impressionists such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Paul Signac, each balked before Gauguin’s forty-one Tahitian canvases during his one-man show at Durand-Ruel’s in November 1893. Two days before the show closed Pissarro wrote to his cher Lucien: “I saw Gauguin; he told me his theories about art and assured me that the young would find salvation by replenishing themselves at remote and savage sources. I told him that this art did not belong to him, that he was a civilized man and hence it was his function to show us harmonious things. We parted, each unconvinced. Gauguin is certainly not without talent, but how difficult it is for him to find his own way! He is always poaching on someone’s ground; now he is stealing from the savages of Oceania.”35 Yet during that two-week show Gauguin received a complimentary review from Octave Mirbeau, his old champion, and a reported verbal endorsement from major Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé.  While some new paintings done by Gauguin in Paris are clear aesthetic hybrids of Europe and Polynesia―such as Portrait de Upaupa Schneklud and Aita Parari te Tamari Vahine Judith, both from 1894―Vaïraumati tei oa (Her Name is Vairaumati), a painting he started in Tahiti in 1892 based on his new-found knowledge of  indigenous gods, received its mystery and savagery out of French Symbolism and this trend of inculcating his Tahitian iconography with contemporary if controversial European influences would significantly deepen in Paris.

Le violoncelliste (Portrait de Upaupa Schneklud) Baltimore
Gauguin, Upaupa Schneklud, 1894, oil on canvas, 92.5 x 73.5 cm (36 x 28 5/8 in.), The Baltimore Museum of Art.
040339_Gauguin_Aita Parari Te Tamari Vahine Judith NEW FIXED
Gauguin, Aita Tamari Vahine Judith Te Parari, 1893-1894, oil on canvas, 116 x 81 cm (45 1/4 x 31 1/2 in.), private collection.

The argument over whether Gauguin’s Tahitian oeuvre was either authentic, exploitative colonialism or the condition for an artistic sham continued during his Paris stay. After it was revealed that Gauguin was returning to Tahiti in spring 1895, the regular art critic for Mercure de France ridiculed his decision based on the artist’s published contention that his rendering of the unnatural and the ideal were his muses. “Why must he leave his Breton digs,” Camille Mauclair wrote, “and exile himself in Tahiti to execute his painting which could, as Gauguin himself said, be done without leaving his room?” Even the artist traveling to Tahiti could be viewed, under certain critical conditions, as inauthentic to Gauguin’s own Tahitian-inspired modern art.36

Paul Gauguin. Vaïraumati tei oa (Her Name is Vairaumati). 1892. Oil on canvas. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, Russia.FIXED
Gauguin. Vaïraumati tei oa (Her Name is Vairaumati). 1892. Oil on canvas. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, Russia.

Lagging sales in Paris and in Copenhagen of Gauguin’s Tahitian art portfolio remained a sore point for the artist. Whatever the date or venue― Durand-Ruel’s from November 10-25, 1893; an auction of Père Tanguy’s art collection with six works by Gauguin on June 2, 1894; a sales-exhibition in his atelier of Gauguin’s woodcuts, monotypes, wood sculptures and Tahitian paintings from December 2-9, 1894; or a February 18, 1895 Drouot auction of 47 works of art – sales performance for the “greatest modern painter” consistently underwhelmed. Such headwinds pushed Gauguin to “face facts” in a changed manner. In December 1893 he had bragged to Mette about bidders at Durand-Ruel’s going as high as 1,500 francs on his asking price of 2,000 to 3,000 francs for a Tahitian canvas and he conceiving a potential fallback price of 1,000 francs for each of his paintings. A year later, hungry for cash and wanting to unload his 4-year-old stock, Gauguin offered the same dealer thirty-five Tahitian canvases for 600 francs each.37

What might have occurred for Gauguin if he had stayed in Paris instead of going back to Tahiti, while impossibly speculative, is hinted at by his choice of Swede August Strindberg to write his catalog introduction for the February 1895 Drouot auction. While Strindberg could be simply viewed as another national hybrid – that of the Nordic lands and France – by the mid 1890s there could be no more propitious moment for Gauguin to interact with this avant-garde literary figure. About Gauguin’s age, Strindberg had also broke with naturalism around 1890 and subsequently was in personal and artistic crisis as he sought new arts forms in an emerging Symbolism. For his proposed catalog introduction Strindberg recognized Gauguin to be a savage and what defined a savage, according to the playwright, novelist and poet, is that he created art work that is neither beautiful nor harmonious but original and unique.  

August-Strindberg-self-portrait-1892-1893-©-National-Library-of-Sweden
August Strindberg, Self Portrait in Berlin, 1892, National Library of Sweden.

In mid1890s Paris the city was in the midst of a technological revolution. It was in color lithography and that mechanical art form proliferated among artists like wildfire which a competitive Gauguin could not have failed to notice. His reaction to the popular modern modality was to remain undeterred in his pursuit of the low-tech woodcut. The savage, Strindberg wrote, is independent and uncompromising. In the rush to technology, Gauguin’s defiance – or what Mette called his “most monstrously brutal egoism” –contributed to the woodcut’s revival at this time. More important, in the graphic arts no contemporary French artist could approach Gauguin’s power and vitality.38 In the Paris period from 1893 to 1895 – and extending to 1900 – Gauguin had no dealer representation. Gauguin broke and then drifted away from the security of Impressionism that Degas, Monet, Renoir and Cassatt enjoyed.39 Strindberg, an artistic visionary, could bring little to Gauguin by way of collectors or patrons.  Like Gauguin, he brought the integrity of his artistic experience which around that time was regrettably bordering on insanity. Three months before leaving France, Gauguin, resigned or relishing his social and artistic isolation, wrote to writer-artist Maurice Denis in March 1895. Gauguin wrote to congratulate the younger artist on an article he published on Armand Séguin, Gauguin’s print-making comrade in Brittany in summer 1894―and includes this short line on a modern artist’s role that might serve as Gauguin’s epitaph in France:

“What prompts me to write you is the pleasure it gives me to see painters looking after their own business….Go on all of you fighting with the brush as well as the pen, and in my retreat (in the South Seas) I shall cherish this fervent hope.”40

1. self-portrait-with-palette-1894
Gauguin, Self-Portrait with Palette, winter 1893-94 or 1894-95, 92 x 73 cm (35 7/8 x 28 1/2 in.), private collection. His new friend Armand Séguin (1869–1903) described the older Gauguin at this time with “his astrakhan hat and his huge dark blue overcoat buttoned with a precious buckle, in which he looked to the Parisians like a sumptuous, gigantic Magyar, or like Rembrandt in 1635.” (Séguin 1903a, 160).

The Paris interlude for Gauguin was about reworking and reinterpreting his first Tahitian experience. Whether Breton coifs or Tahitian pareos, Gauguin uses them to express his themes of distant memory, savagery, mystery, darkness, androgyny, sensual melancholy, exoticism, and the hieratic. His art united disparate objects and themes but under a veil of mystery and ambiguity. As a craftsman he uses symbolical objects to express a deeper idea than the surface meaning of the artifacts that a viewer can identify. Along with his unsold canvases Gauguin filled his Paris studio with Tahitian fabrics, wooden sculptures, weapons, trophies, and photographs and then advertised for collectors to come and steep themselves in the new language of modern art.41 Through hard work and artistic vision in France involving Synthetism, Symbolism, and from 1893 to 1895, Tahitianism, Gauguin remained an avant-garde leader. Gauguin’s art divided critical opinion but ever the passionate individualist who possessed an optimistic expectation for himself he saw much of his ambition realized in Paris in those short months. His wife Mette was responsive to his interests and he received his share of critical praise and sales for his exhibitions. In his art Gauguin combined fact and fantasy, reality and imagination and used a variety of artistic media and innovative techniques.42 In Paris by way of his re-workings of his Tahitian experience Gauguin deepened his vision of the islands and served his appetite to be, as Gustave Flaubert might arrange, “violent and revolutionary” in his work. Between 1893 and 1895 Impressionist Paris is artistically lost in the background to Paul Gauguin: there is no more than one canvas of its snow-covered roofs out of a courtyard window that was painted by him. The importance of Tahiti in Gauguin’s psyche in this Paris interlude cannot be overstated – and it becomes increasingly evident after his return there which soon resulted in his second (and final) Polynesian sojourn.

NOTES:

*In 1890 one French Franc was the equivalent of about 20 U.S. cents. $1 today had about $20 of buying power in 1890. http://www.fisheaters.com/forums/index.php?topic=3458337.0

  1. Mathews, Nancy Mowll, Paul Gauguin: An Erotic Life, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2001, p. 205.
  2. Ibid. p.193.
  3. Malingue, Maurice, Paul Gauguin: Letters to his Wife and Friends, The World Publishing Company, Cleveland and New York, 1949 (Letter 150, Gauguin to William Molard), p. 193.
  4. “First Tahitian period Gauguin primarily painter…” Brettell, Richard, et.al., The Art of Paul Gauguin, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and The Art Institute of Chicago, 1988, p. 297; “exclusively on watercolor transfers and woodcuts” – Ibid., p. 293; “print techniques” – Boyle-Tuner, Caroline, in collaboration with Samuel Josefowitz, foreward by Douglas Druick, The Prints of the Pont-Aven School: Gauguin and His Circle in Brittany, Abbeville Press, New York, 1986, p.106; “atelier…plundered…”, Bretell, p. 294.
  5. For Gauguin’s return date, August 30, 1893 according to Gloria Groom in Brettell, p. 291 and August 23, 1893 according to Nancy Mowll Mathews in Mathews, p. 193.
  6. Mathews, p. 194.
  7. Mathews, p. 300; Thomson, Belinda, Gauguin, Thames and Hudson, New York, 1897 (reprinted 1997), p 138.
  8. Thomson, p 138.
  9. Mathews, p.195.
  10. Rewald, John, Post-Impressionism: From Van Gogh to Gauguin, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Third Edition, 1978, p. 414.
  11. Thomson, Belinda, Gauguin By Himself, Chartwell Books, Edison, NJ, 1998, pp.122-3.
  12. Malingue, (Letter 157, Gauguin to Maurice Denis), p. 200.
  13. Mathews, p. 207.
  14. Salvesen, Britt, Gauguin, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York, 2001, p. 57.
  15. Thomson, Gauguin, p.156.
  16. Ibid., p.140.
  17. Brettell, p. 300.
  18. Exhibition Pamphlet, “Intimate Encounters Paul Gauguin and the South Pacific,” The Edward McCormick Blair Collection, September 6, 2003 to January 11, 2004, the Art Institute of Chicago.
  19. Mathews, p. 203.
  20. Malingue, (Letter 154, Gauguin to August Strindberg), February 5, 1895, p.197.
  21. see Georges Lecomte (1867-1958), “Salon XX, conférence de M. Georges Lecomte,” L’Art moderne, 28 February 1892, p. 67 and Francois Thiébault-Sisson (1856-1944), “Les Petits Salons” in Le Temps, December 2, 1893. “What artist would be more gifted if exclusively literary friendships did not cloud his judgment and paralyze the instinctive sense of painting that he has?” -quoted in Mathews, p. 203. For Félix Fénéon, Camille Pissarro and Paul Signac quote, see Marlais, Michael, Conservative Echoes in Fin-de-Siècle Parisian Art Criticism, The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA, 1992, pp. 98-101.
  22. see Brettell, p. 297; Delevoy, Robert L., Symbolists and Symbolism, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., New York, 1982, p. 159; Stevenson, Lesley, Gauguin, Gallery Books/W.H. Smith Publishers, Inc., New York, 1990, p. 56; Crepaldi, Gabriele, trans. Sylvia Tombesi-Walton, Gauguin, Dorling Kindersley, London, 1998,  p. 92.
  23. Mathews, p. 197.
  24. Malingue, (Letter 145, Gauguin to Mette), pp. 187-88.
  25. “image translations” –Brettell, p. 330; Druick, Douglas W. and Zegers, Peter Kort, Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South, Thames & Hudson, New York 2001, p. 342.
  26. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/history.html – retrieved May 20, 2015 and Mathews, p. 196.
  27. Salvesen, p. 52; Druick , Zegers and Kort, pp. 292 and 345; https://library.temple.edu/scrc/charles-morice-papers.
  28. Malingue, letter 142, Gauguin to his wife, September 1893, p.186.
  29. Mathews, p. 195-196.
  30. Ibid., p. 197.
  31. Brettell, p. 301.
  32. Thomson, Gauguin, p.146.
  33. “European sources” – Ibid., p. 143; “little knowledge of indigenous beliefs and customs” and “by way of a Belgian” – Ibid., p.156; “found no indigenous cultural artefacts” – Ibid., p. 161.
  34. Salvesen, pps. 50-51.
  35. Pissarro, Camille, Letters to his Son Lucien, edited by John Rewald, Peregrine Smith, Inc., Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City, 1981, p. 280.
  36. Mirbeau – Mathews, p.197; Mallarmé reportedly said: “It is extraordinary that one should be able to put so much mystery into so much splendor.” – Dorra, Henri, Symbolist Art Theories: A Critical Anthology, University of California press, 1994, p.209; Mauclair – Mathews, p.210.
  37. “bragged about bidders..” Malingue (Letter 145, Gauguin to Mette), p. 187-88; “thirty-five canvases for 600 francs each…” -Brettell, p. 294.
  38. Strindberg –Mathews, p. 207; color lithography and woodcuts revival – Shapiro, p. 133; “brutal egoism”-quoted in Claire Frèches-Thory, “The Exhibition at Durand-Ruel,” in Gauguin Tahiti, George T.M. Shackelford and Claire Frèches-Thory, MFA Publications, 2004, p. 84.
  39. Ibid., p. 200.
  40. Malingue, (Letter 157, Gauguin to Maurice Denis), pp. 200-201.
  41. Brettell, p. 300; Crepaldi, p. 92.
  42. Druick and Zegers, p. 344.
https://www.academia.edu/12845381/Savagery_in_Civilization_Paul_Gauguin_and_his_Tahiti-inspired_graphic_work_in_Paris_1893-1895

If you liked this post, please visit these for more:

Portraits of JOSHUA REYNOLDS (1723-1792).

FEATURE image: Joshua Reynolds, Richard Eliot (1733-1746), 1743-44, 48.2 x 43 cm, Private Collection. See no. 4 below for the painting’s story.

Notes by John P. Walsh

#1 NEWEST  The Revd Mr Thomas Smart Engravings from the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1822
1- REVEREND MR. THOMAS SMART, portrait after Reynolds (1735, private collection), 1822, mezzotint with scratching, 22.6 x 16.3 cm, British Museum, London.

Reverend Mr. Thomas Smart was Vicar of Maker when, in 1735, 11-year-old Joshua Reynolds painted his portrait. It was the same year the sitter died. This print is a much later derivation of the oil on canvas in a private collection. With art materials provided by George, 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe (1720-1795), it is traditionally believed to be Reynolds’s first painting.

2 – Reginald Pole, 1743-44, 76 x 86.5 cm, Trustees of the Carew Pole Family Trusts, Antony House, Cornwall.

Reginald Pole (1717-1769), son of a Devon clergyman and his wife, married a woman whose brother was painted by Reynolds. The 26-year-old sitter wears a blue velvet coat.

3 – Charles Cutcliffe, c. 1743, City Art Gallery, Plymouth, 28 x 22 cm (oval).

The sitter was an attorney in north Devon at Bideford who helped Reynolds secure an apprenticeship to English portrait painter Thomas Hudson (1701-1779). This picture is identified as a young Reynolds’s work based on an August 1743 letter from his father to Cutcliffe.

4- Richard Eliot (1733-1746), 1743-44, 48.2 x 43 cm, Private Collection.

The attentive young subject is a midshipman in the British navy.

5 – Richard Edgcumbe, 1st Baron of Mount Edgcumbe (1680-1758), 1740, 127 x 101 cm. Destroyed.

Richard Edgcumbe, son of Sir Richard Edgcumbe, became at 22 years old MP from Plympton where he served for 32 years. He was a reliable ally to long-serving British prime minister Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745). Edgcumbe married in 1715 but six years later was a widower. Reynolds’ painting was destroyed by bombing in World War II.

Mrs. Elizabeth Field, 1744, 76 x 63 cm, Private Collection.

Reynolds’ blood uncle’s wife’s sister. Though called “Mrs.,” the sitter never married.

7 – Mrs. Mary Kendall, 1744, 76.3 x 63.5 cm, Private Collection.

An early example of the artist’s use of the profile. Mary Fletcher married Walter Kendall of Cornwall in 1740.

8- known as Miss Mary Kendall, 1744, location unknown.

The identity of the sitter in a blue dress is uncertain. She may be an in-law of Walter Kendall.

9- Master Nicholas Kendall, 1744, 75 x 62.2 cm, Private Collection.

Part of a collection of 6 or 7 Kendall family portraits painted in 1744 when Reynolds was 21 years old.

10 – Walter Kendall (born 1689), 1744, 72.5 x 59.7 cm, Fraunces Tavern Museum, NY.

Walter Kendall was Plymouth Dock’s town clerk.

11-Mrs. Kerley, 1744.

Elizabeth Murray married John Kerley, a town official of Plymouth. Their son became a captain in the Royal Navy.

12-Edward Eliot, 1st Lord (1727-1804), 1744-45, 76 x 63 cm, Trustees of the St Germans Estate, Port Eliot, Cornwall.

Edward Eliot was MP for Cornwall and a life-long friend of Reynolds. Described as lively, very clever and most agreeable, 50 years later he was a pall-bearer at Reynolds’ funeral.

13- Mrs. Foote, 1744-45, 76 x 63.3 cm, private collection.

Wife to Rev. Josiah Foote, Rector of Antony and Kingsteignton in South Devon, the sitter is also the mother of Captain John Foote.

14-Richard Parsons, 2nd Earl of Rosse (c.1718-1764), 1744-46, 127 x 102 cm, private collection.

Rosse was an Irish peer whose portrait was painted in London likely. He married Olivia Edwards in 1754. The composition is derived from a portrait of James Stuart, Duke of Richmond and Lennox, c. 1634–35 by Anthony van Dyck (Flemish, 1599–1641). The van Dyck hangs today in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

15- Clotworth Skeffington, later 1st Earl of Massereene (1714-1757), 1744-46, 121.3 x 96.5 cm, Private Collection.

Clotworth Skeffington’s portrait was painted in London perhaps. It was Reynolds’ most ambitious painting to date.

16-Sir William Morice, 3rd Bt (c.1707-1750) 1745, 123 x 99 cm, St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall.

Sir William had his portrait painted other artists. In Italy in 1729 and 1730 he collected Canalettos. In 1731 he married Lady Lucy Wharton. They divorced in 1738.  In 1741 he married Anna Bury. In 1745 Reynolds painted Sir William wearing a brownish silk tunic and grey cloak with a red velvet hat lined in fur.

17 – “Amelia Watts,” 1745, 155 x 102 cm, Private Collection.

Family tradition identifies this as a young girl who married in 1769 and died in childbirth soon after.

The Art of Connoisseurship, or How THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO’S TITIAN PAINTING was Discovered to be a Work by an “Imitator.”

FEATURE image: Allegory of Venus and Cupid, c. 1600, Imitator of Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, Italian, c. 1485/90-1576), oil on canvas, 51 1/8 x 61 1/8 in. (129.9 x 155.3 cm). Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection, 1943.90.

By John P. Walsh

The pleasant if heavily-restored late 16th century allegorical painting in the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago is today called Allegory of Venus and Cupid and dated to around 1600. Attributed to an “imitator” of Titian it remains in museum storage (“Not on Display”).

When this same painting was “rediscovered” around 1930 it was hailed as a Titian masterpiece and over the next 15 years was talked of that way in the general press and in some quarters of the art press. It delighted crowds who came to see it hang on the walls of The Art Institute of Chicago and The Cleveland Museum of Art. Called The Education of Cupid and dated to the 1550s, it was compared favorably with Titian’s famous allegorical subject paintings in Paris’s Louvre and in Rome’s Galleria Borghese.

The painting through the Great Depression and World War II was labeled “Titian,” but among expert connoisseurs there existed a longstanding dismissal of that attribution ever since its first known “resurfacing” in the mid1830s at Gosford House in Scotland.

Titian, Self portrait, c. 1550, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

In Italian his name is Tiziano Vecellio, but in English the artist is famously known as Titian (1485-1576)

Titian was part of a family of artists who had been civic leaders in 13th-century and 14th-century Italy, such as mayors, magistrates, and notaries. Offspring of two Vecellio brothers in the fifteenth century became artists. One of the brothers was ambassador to Venice where the family had a timber trade there. The ambassador’s grandsons became Venetian-trained painters. The younger grandson was the great Titian.

Titian became the leading painter in Venice and an influential artist throughout Sixteenth-century Italy. His cousin Cesare Vecellio (1530-1601) was an engraver and painter trained in Titian’s workshop. These Vecellio cousins and their sons became artists and were allowed to use the appellation “di Tiziano” which would bring them attention. Yet these family members were, along with later followers of Titian, artistic mediocrities.

The painter of The Art Institute of Chicago’s allegory entitled Allegory of Venus and Cupid is only identified as an “imitator” of Titian. Its allegorical motifs share similarities with Titian’s and this is perhaps partly why this Old Master painting by an unknown follower of Titian was mistaken for the master himself when it resurfaced on the art market in 1927.

Called The Education of Cupid and dated to the 1550s, it traded back and forth to the dealer for almost a decade until it was bought in 1936 by a well-connected Chicago couple who collected sixteenth-century Venetian paintings. The Wemyss ‘Allegory’ (named for its former British owner, Lord Wemyss) came to Chicago out of what amounted to be a Scottish attic.

It gained ready acclaim as a rediscovered Titian and since its subject was reminiscent of Titian’s Allegory of Marriage (1533) in the Louvre and a Titian subject allegory in the Galleria Borghese, the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ in Chicago was hailed as completing a triumvirate of Titian’s greatest allegorical compositions.

The problem was that this Chicago Titian was not a Titian at all, although it took about 10 years for that fact to gain modern acceptance.

After the purchase, the new owners immediately lent their Titian to The Art Institute to mount on its gallery walls. It would hang next to the collector couple’s verifiable Tintoretto, Veronese, and G.-B. Moroni. The museum eventually acquired the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ in 1943, but not before it toured The Cleveland Museum of Art during their “Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition” in 1936 and viewed with enthusiasm as a Titian.  

The collector purchase and subsequent loan to the Art Institute was front page news in Chicago. The director of the museum at the time, Robert Harshe, compared the work in importance to only two others in The Art Institute at that time – El Greco’s Assumption of the Virgin (1577-79) and Girl at the Open Half Door (1645) attributed to Rembrandt. Curiously, this painting first attributed to Rembrandt has been itself increasingly questioned in terms of its high authorship. One of the first historical European paintings to enter the museum’s permanent collection, Girl at the Open Half Door is today identified with the moniker “and Workshop” to indicate the possibility that it was created by a student under the master’s supervision.

The Assumption of the Virgin, 1577-79, El Greco ( see – https://www.artic.edu/articles/810/the-many-lives-of-el-grecos-assumption)
Young Woman at an Open Half-Door,1645, Rembrandt van Rijn and Workshop (see – https://www.artic.edu/artworks/94840/young-woman-at-an-open-half-door). Author’s photograph.
“Allegory of Venus and Cupid,” c. 1600, Imitator of Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, Italian, c. 1485/90-1576), oil on canvas, 51 1/8 x 61 1/8 in. (129.9 x 155.3 cm). Charles H. and Mary F.S. Worcester Collection, 1943.90.

Soon after its acquisition by The Art Institute, the Titian attribution was loudly critiqued in print and eventually dropped. The subject of the painting is of a girl who appears before Venus to be initiated into the mysteries of Love. At the girl’s right are Venus and the boy Cupid with an arrow. In the background two satyrs raise items such as a basket with two doves and a bundle of fruit.

Allegories were popular in Italian Renaissance art to convey social, political, economic and religious messages using historical and mythological figures. This painting’s figures, however, appear to be derivative of specific Titian works. Further, it possesses little of the technical brilliance or psychological revelations found in Titian’s work such as in Triple Mask or Allegory of Prudence (c. 1570, London, National Gallery). For example, Titian’s imitator gives the figure of the girl the same dramatic hand gesture found in Titian’s Venus with a Mirror (c. 1555, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. ). Insofar as the girl’s skyward gaze and flowing hair, the imitator cites The Penitent Magdalene (1531-33, Florence, Palazzo Pitti).

Titian, Venus with a Mirror, 1555, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Titian, Penitent Magdalen, 1533, Pitti Palace.

In addition to the painting’s derivative character of well-known Titian works, what most connoisseurs recognized by 1945 was what they called its “very modern” execution. This referred to its sharp color contrasts and figurative forms which developed only after Titian’s time. Connoisseurs also noted that Titian differentiated sharply between hair and ornament and that his female figures’s hair is neatly braided, whereas the hair is “in a mass” in the Wemyss ‘Allegory’. 

These characteristics pointed to the picture being related less to authentic Titians in Paris and Rome and more to those attributed dubiously, even spuriously, to Titian in Munich and at the Durazzo Palace in Genoa. Though this inauthenticity of Chicago’s Wemyss “Allegory” could have been questioned at the start of its appearance in Chicago in 1936, the museum was not adhering closely to the historical connoisseurship.

Sir Joseph Archer Crowe by Louis Kolitz (German, 1845-1914), London, National Portrait Gallery.
Sir Joseph Archer Crowe by Louis Kolitz (German, 1845-1914), London, National Portrait Gallery.
Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, 19th century.
Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle, 19th century.

Sir Joseph Archer Crowe (British, 1825-1896) and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle (Italian, 1819-1897) had seen all three of the spuriously attributed Titians in Munich, Genoa, and at Gosford House which was now in Chicago. It was well known the pair excluded all three from their Titian catalog except to note that they were imitations which had been notably damaged and restored. Chicago museum research in the late 1930s was also aware of Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s attributive work for they cited them in official publications on the Wemyss ‘Allegory,’ but overlooked their conclusions.

With the museum’s acquisition of the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ in 1943 Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s negative attribution for it was no longer ignored or denied.  About its reworking in England one tempting and likely wishful speculation was that the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ was restored by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) but that claim remains unsubstantiated. Further facts contextualized in the deft historical hands of modern connoisseurship left the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ out in the Titianesque cold as an imitator. In the case of the Chicago painting it was by historical comparison with compositional arrangements in known Titians that the compositional arrangements in the Munich and Chicago paintings were deemed by Crowe and Cavalcaselle to be done by imitators. Historically for Titian it would be nonsensical or “unique” for Titian to have manipulated the figures in that way at that time.

By the mid1940s the Chicago painting was searching for a new name attribution, since Crowe and Cavalcaselle did not give it one. The notion that it was done by Damiano Mazza (active after 1573), an obscure 16th century artist and student of Titian, was proposed but later dismissed.

Chatsworth, Duke of Devonshire: Van Dyck, Sketchbook.
Rome, Galleria Borghese: Venus and Cupid with Satyr Carrying a Basket with Fruit, attributed to Paolo Veronese.

Some of the confusion over the attribution to Titian of the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ is based on erring connections made using erring extant evidence. For example, the conjecture of Vienna School-trained art historian of Venetian art Hans Tietze (Czech, 1880-1954) that a sketch by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)–which Tietze wrongly believed was made at Chatsworth House of a painting once attributed to Titian–shared similar motifs with the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ is a thin thread for possible attribution to Titian. It may be argued that the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ shares very little with the Van Dyck sketch except for the satyr lifting a basket. Further, the painting which Van Dyck sketched is no longer attributed to Titian and has long been in the Galleria Borghese in Rome as a minor Venus and Cupid with Satyr Carrying a Basket with Fruit now attributed to Paolo Veronese. It was in Rome where Van Dyck must have made his sketch, not England, and it was there he misidentified it as Titian. It is a tenous trail of misleading evidence that became the prompt to a connoisseur’s mistaken thought.

Paris, Louvre: Allegory of Marriage, Titian, 1533.

Nuptial paintings

One persuasive conclusion on attribution today for the Wemyss ‘Allegory’ was offered by Hans Tietze’s wife, the historian of Renaissance and Baroque art, Erika Tietze-Conrat (1883-1958). Tietze-Conrat believed that The Art Institute painting resides in a pool of works done by assistants and imitators who combined varied elements of Titian’s allegories as found in the Louvre’s Allegory of d’Avalos (the aforementioned Allegory of Marriage) and the Borghese’s Education of Cupid.

Erwin Panofsky (German, 1892-1968) postulated that those known Titians were nuptial paintings. Building on that premise, Tietze-Conrat postulated that numerous reproductions were made by Titian followers so to create nuptial paintings for their patrons to suit their needs. The derivative works shared the intimacy of a private format with a recognizable cast of 16th century depictions of mythological actors and the evocation of a Titianesque mood.

Today the Art Institute of Chicago has renamed their Wemyss “Allegory” as Allegory of Venus and Cupid and dated it to “around 1600.” The museum removed Titian and every other named attribution. Attribution has been returned to the term that connoisseurs Crowe and Cavalcaselle gave the painting in 1881, namely, “imitator.” 

“The execution here is very modern,” the pair wrote in their Life and Times of Titian in 1881. “It is greatly injured, but was apparently executed by some imitator of Titian.” Their late 19th century judgment hold fast today.

NOTES –

“first known “resurfacing” in the mid1830s in Scotland at Gosford House” – http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/46314?search_no=6&index=4 ,retrieved Dec 29, 2014.

On Titian and Vecellio family – Encyclopedia of Italian Renaissance & Mannerist Art, Volume II, edited by Jane Turner, Macmillan Reference Limited, 2000, p. 1695.

For provenance since 1835 – see http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/46314?search_no=6&index=4 ,retrieved Dec 29, 2014.

“ready acclaim as a rediscovered Titian…”; “lent their Titian to The Art Institute to mount……”; “Cleveland… ‘Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition’ in 1936…” –A Great Titian,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago (1907-1951) Vol. 31, No. 1 (Jan., 1937), p. 8; “Famed Titian Work Acquired by Chicagoans,” Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1936, p. 28; “The Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Worcester Gift,” Daniel Catton Rich, Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Mar., 1930), pp. 29-31 and 40.  The Chicago collectors were Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Worcester, a museum Vice-President and lumber and paper manufacturer.

“…director of the museum… compared the work in importance to El Greco’s ‘Assumption of the Virgin’ and Rembrandt’s ‘Girl at the Open Half Door’” – “Famed Titian Work Acquired by Chicagoans,” Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1936, p. 28.

“….Allegories were popular in Italian Renaissance art…”-  http://www.iub.edu/~iuam/online_modules/iowc/b_003.html,retrieved December 29, 2014.

little of the technical brilliance or psychological revelations found in…Triple Mask…”H. E. Wethey, The Paintings of Titian: Complete Edition, vol. 2, The Portraits, Phaidon, New York, p. 50.

“its ‘very modern’ execution”; “in a mass” – The Wemyss Allegory in the Art Institute of Chicago, E. Tietze-Conrat. The Art Bulletin Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), p. 269.

“It was widely known the pair excluded all three from their Titian catalog…” – “A Great Titian Goes to Chicago,” Art News 35, 5 (1936), p.15 (ill.).

“Chicago museum research in the late 1930s was aware of Crowe and Cavalcaselle’s attributive work… overlooked their conclusions…” – Footnote #4, The Wemyss Allegory in the Art Institute of Chicago, E. Tietze-Conrat. The Art Bulletin Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), p. 269.

“…restored by Sir Joshua Reynolds…” – The Wemyss Allegory in the Art Institute of Chicago, E. Tietze-Conrat. The Art Bulletin Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1945), p. 269.

 “done by Damiano Mazza…” Ibid., p. 270.

Conjecture of Hans Tietze; Erika Tietze-Conrat’s postulation –  Ibid., p. 271.

“the execution here is very modern… It is greatly injured, but was apparently executed by some imitator of Titian.” – Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Life and Times of Titian, London, 1881,
II, p. 468.

https://www.academia.edu/13331765/THE_ART_OF_CONNOISSEURSHIP_OR_HOW_THE_ART_INSTITUTE_OF_CHICAGO_DISCOVERED_THEIR_TITIAN_PAINTING_WAS_A_WORK_BY_AN_IMITATOR._

Review: PICASSO AND CHICAGO, The Art Institute of Chicago, February 20–May 12, 2013.

FEATURE image: Picasso, Bust of a Woman, late 1909, Watercolor and gouache on cream laid paper, laid down on buff laid paper, 363 x 278 mm overall. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Armory Show, Art Institute of Chicago, March 24–April 16, 1913.

Armory Show, International Exhibition of Modern Art. The Cubist room, Gallery 53 (northeast view), Art Institute of Chicago, March 24–April 16, 1913. On the long wall are three of seven Picasso artworks included in that landmark exhibition. None are in “Picasso and Chicago” in 2013.

By John P. Walsh.

Almost as long as Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was making his art, there have been bragging rights on the Catalan artist that have come from others. Even 40 years after the artist’s death at 91 years old, media talk in 2013 for Picasso and Chicago, a large art exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago from February 20 to May 12, 2013, revolves around American collector “firsts” associated with Picasso.

Which institution collected Picasso first? The Art Institute of Chicago in 1923.

Which institution collected Picasso most? The Chicago Renaissance Society by 1930.

Which institution had the first Picasso exhibition? The Arts Club of Chicago in 1923.

Which institution had the first Picasso retrospective? The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut in 1934.

The Art Institute of Chicago is able to put imagination aside and quote itself in Picasso and Chicago. Nearly all of the same inventory of Picasso artwork in this 2013 show were assembled and displayed in the exact same order in a previous exhibition at the museum called Picasso in Chicago held from February 3 to March 31, 1968. According to the museum director writing at that time, that exhibition had been inspired by the dedication of the Picasso sculpture on August 15, 1967, a five-story Cor-10 steel Chicago icon that still stands enigimatically in Daley Plaza.  If public attention is what Pablo Picasso craves, then he should have no worries.

Picasso, Nude with a Pitcher, summer 1906.
Pablo Picasso, Nude with a Pitcher, Gósol, summer 1906, oil on canvas, 39 5/8 x 31 7/8 in. (100.6 x 81 cm), Signed, l.r.: “Picasso.” The Art Institute of Chicago.

In the summer of 1906, during a working sojourn to Gósol in the Spanish Pyrenees, Picasso painted his mistress and muse, Fernande Olivier (French, 1881-1966).

Picasso Nude with a pitcher summer 1906 Gosol Spain

Image above and below: Pablo Picasso, Nude with a Pitcher (detail).

nude-with-a-pitcher-detail-summer-1906-gosol-spain-2
fernande-1905

Fernande Olivier and Pablo Picasso in 1905 in Paris.

Pablo Picasso, Fernande Olivier, summer 1906. Charcoal, with stumping, on cream laid paper, 610 x 458 mm. Signed recto, lower right, in graphite: “Picasso” (underlined), The art Insitute of Chicago.
Pablo Picasso, The Two Saltimbanques, 1905, printed and published 1913. Drypoint on ivory wove paper 120 x 91 mm (image/plate); 193 x 129 mm (sheet) The Art Institute of Chicago.
Picasso, Study for La Coiffure, 1906.
Picasso, Study for “La Coiffure,” 1905-1906. Pen and brown ink, with colored crayons and charcoal applied with stump, over graphite, on blue-gray laid paper 184 x 307 m. Signed recto, upper right, in graphite: “Picasso.” The Art Institute of Chicago.

The pairs of figures are related by both being involved in intimate activities, but represent two different subjects Picasso studied months apart. One dates from 1905 and the other from 1906. The pair on the right is a study for a major painting, La Coiffure, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

There are several excellent reasons to see Picasso and Chicago in 2013 and they don’t always revolve around his art. It is a matter for city pride to know that Chicago possesses within its own collections the breadth of art resources to showcase, in chronological order, this Picasso show comprehensive of every major period. In these tight economic times kudos goes out to museum curators who have effectively displayed a vast amount and range of artwork by Pablo Picasso to produce a blockbuster show. The chronological exhibition of Picasso’s art includes works from The Art Institute of Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago and The Renaissance Society and is front loaded providing for immediate pleasures.

The visitor is greeted nearly at the door by The Old Guitarist painted by Picasso in 1903-1904—a revered Blue Period painting in the Art Institute—and for the viewer to be edified by its presence is worth any exhibition’s admission price though there was no special exhibition fee beyond the price of general admission to the museum.

Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903–1904.
Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903–1904, oil on panel, 48 3/8 x 32 1/2 in. signed, l.r.: “Picasso.” The Art Institute of Chicago.

If front-loaded, does the rest of the show retain the same high interest? The answer is: yes and no. For all future Picasso shows in Chicago, curators can find several avenues to whittle away at the volume of artwork on display for Picasso and Chicago to present its most interesting parts. That downsizing opportunity intimates this show’s arguable shortcoming: as it displays the Spanish master’s later, increasingly commercial artwork, the Art Institute of Chicago’s 500 Picasso works in all mediums begins to reveal the challenges of building a seamlessly qualitative collection of contemporary art even when the artist is Picasso.

Picasso woman with her hair up 1904
Picasso, Woman with her hair up, 1904, Gouache on tan wood pulp board, 427 x 313 mm, Signed and dated recto, upper left, in blue gouache: “Picasso / 1904.” The Art Institute of Chicago.
Picasso, "Beggar with Crutch," 1904.
Images above and below (detail): Pablo Picasso, Beggar with Crutch, Barcelona  1904, pen, brown ink and colored crayon on paper. The Art Institute of Chicago. 
beggar-with-crutch-barcelona-1904 pen-brown-ink-and-colored-crayon-on-paper-detail

Crazy Woman with Cats, 1901. Oil on pulp board 17 7/16 x 16 1/16 in. (44.3 x 40.8 cm). Signed. l.r.: “Picasso.” Amy McCormick Memorial Collection, 1942. The Art Institute of Chicago.
picasso-crazy-woman-with-cats-detail-early-summer-1901-paris-oil-on-cardboard

In late May 1901 Picasso came to Paris with three weeks to prepare for an exhibition at Vollard’s gallery. The exhibition was arranged by a Catalan dealer who roomed with the 19-year-old Picasso on the Boulevard de Clichy. Crazy Woman with Cats is one of the 64 paintings and several drawings Picasso prepared for the show. 

Picasso, Sketch of a young woman (detail), pen and brush and black ink on paper, Paris 1904, gift of Robert Allerton, 1924, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Robert Allerton, a museum trustee since 1918, began to acquire Picasso drawings in 1923 with the sole purpose of donating them to the museum. Sketch of a young woman was Allerton’s first Picasso drawing purchase and museum donation in 1923 purchased in Chicago from Albert Roullier Galleries.

Picasso, Study of a Seated Man, 1905
Picasso, Portrait of a Seated Man, 1905. Black chalk on cream wove paper, laid down on cream Japanese paper, 329 x 216 mm, Signed recto, lower left, in graphite: “Picasso.”Gift of Robert Allerton, 1924. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Picasso, Study of Four Nudes, Paris, 1906-07.
Picasso, Study of Four Nudes, Paris, 1906-07, black crayon paper, Johnson Family collection.

By the end of 1906 Picasso stopped painting and instead started to fill sketchbooks for a new major composition: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) today in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Picasso, Female Nude, 1906. Fabricated Black chalk with graphite and smudging on paper, 31.8 x 23.5 cm. Gray Collection Trust. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Picasso, Two Nudes, Standing, fall 1906
Picasso, Two Nudes, Standing (detail), fall 1906 Graphite, with stumping, on cream laid paper (detail).

Picasso, Two Nudes, Standing, fall 1906 Graphite, with stumping, on cream laid paper (detail).

Picasso, Two Nudes, Standing, fall 1906 Graphite, with stumping, on cream laid paper 630 x 469 mm Signed verso, upper left, in graphite: “Picasso.” Gift of Mrs. Potter Palmer, 1944. The Art Institute of Chicago .

In the early 1920’s as Chicago started a buying frenzy of Picasso, another young Spanish painter twelve years younger than Picasso arrived into Paris and was immediately overtly critical of the great Picasso’s work at that time. That younger painter was Joan Miró (1893-1983).

Miró’s criticism of Picasso as well as of Henri Matisse (1869-1954)— it was more a kind of disgust—was basically that the pair, once young avant-gardists, were making all their art for their dealer. In other words, the older artists were making contemporary art mainly for the money. Such may be an inherent risk in making art that meets a market demand in that the artist is tempted to, after a fashion, sell-out. Miró knew at first look—and history has proven him basically correct—that the future of contemporary painting no longer rested in Picasso’s hands after about 1920. This is partly the reason why Miró turned to the “nonsense” art of the Dadaists for the future of his own painting.

Keeping Miro’s judgment in one’s mind at Picasso and Chicago one sees that, notable exceptions made, an earlier Picasso painting—from the Blue Period after 1901 to Picasso’s period of synthetic cubism until around 1920—offers cohesive artwork that contains a germ or seed of progress.  The art collection in Picasso and Chicago, much of it produced following Miró’s critical judgment of Picasso, shares his problematic.

The Red Armchair of 1931 is hung at what is about the show’s halfway point. At this point, I might have exited. Yet where Miró’s critical judgment lags for me is that Picasso’s art is never incompetent or boring. His art is perceptibly linear and, despite its erotic themes, often contains qualities which satisfy and cleanse an art-hungry eye. Picasso’s art is ever ancient and ever new, and distinctly European. For me, seeing a Picasso connotes a stroll in Paris or feeling a sunburn on the face after revelry and reverie along some Mediterranean coast. Quite readily the show produced these kinds of vicarious experiences for me as i soaked up a plethora of Picasso’s later, lesser work in utilitarian Regenstein Hall.

nessus-and-deianira-juan-les-pins-september-22-1920-graphite-on-papere-with-white-ground
Nessus and Deianira, September 22, 1920, Graphite on tan wove paper, prepared with a white ground, signed recto, upper left, in pen and blue ink: “Picasso” (underlined); inscribed upper left, in graphite: “22-9-20.”

Just before leaving Paris in September 1920, Picasso made a series of drawings of the Greek myth of the abduction of Hercules’ bride Deianira by the centaur Nessus. With this, Picasso became fascinated with Greek mythology and continued to make artwork using its themes.

Picasso, Head of A Woman (Fernande), Paris winter 1909-10, brush and gray wash on paper. Private Collection.

Paintings and drawings by Picasso in winter 1909-10 continued to explore Cubism as it related to the human face and figure and its surroundings. 

Picasso studio Horta de Ebro summer 1909.
Picasso’s studio at Horta de Ebro (now Horta de San Juan) in Spain between May and September 1909.

The painting (at left) of a Head of a Woman is one of the early Cubist artworks in “Picasso and Chicago.”

Picasso, Head of a Woman, summer 1909, Oil on canvas 23 3/4 x 20 1/8 in. (60.3 x 51.1 cm), Winterbotham Collection, 1940.

This painting dates to one of the most productive and inventive periods of Pablo Picasso’s career, a summer stay in the town of Horta de Ebro (now Horta de San Juan) in Spain, which lasted, with minor interruptions, from May to September of 1909. In these months, Picasso produced a series of landscapes, heads, and still lifes that are among the most highly acclaimed achievements of early Cubism. Fernande Olivier, Picasso’s mistress, was the model for the series of heads that the artist produced at this time.

Picasso Bust of a Woman, late 1909
Picasso, Bust of a Woman, late 1909, Watercolor and gouache on cream laid paper, laid down on buff laid paper, 363 x 278 mm overall; signed recto, lower left, in graphite: “Picasso (underlined)/ 09” Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Roy J. Friedman, 1964. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Head of a Woman (Fernande), fall 1909, bronze, 16 1/8 x 9 7/8 x 10 9/16 in. (40.7 x 20.1 x 26.9 cm), cast 1910, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949.

This work is Pablo Picasso’s first large Cubist sculpture and represents the distinctive physiognomy of Fernande Olivier, who was the artist’s model and mistress from 1905 to 1912. Before making the bust, Picasso produced countless drawings and gouaches to explore the specific form and structure of his subject’s facial features. Her hair is in a coil and a topknot; her bulging jaw; her well-defined depression in the center of her upper lip. The Fernande series’ evolved from an agility of facial expression to fixed signs of its individual features.

artist-and-model-cannes-july-24-1933-watercolor-and-pen-and-black-ink-on-paper-1
Picasso, Artist and Model, 1933.
artist-and-model-cannes-july-24-1933-watercolor-and-pen-and-black-ink-on-paper-2
Picasso signature
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Artist and Model, Cannes, July 24, 1933, watercolor and pen and black ink on paper. Gray Collection trust.
Picasso, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, autumn 1910, Oil on canvas, 39 9/16 x 28 9/16 in. (100.4 x 72.4 cm) Gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman in memory of Charles B. Goodspeed, 1948. The Art Institute of Chicago.

German-born Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979) opened an art gallery in Paris in 1907. In 1908 Kahnweiler began representing Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and introduced him to Georges Braque (1882-1963). Kahnweiler championed these artists’ revolutionary experiment with Cubism and purchased most of their paintings between 1908 and 1915. Kahnweiler sat for Picasso up to thirty times for this portrait.

Portrait_de_Picasso,_1908

Portrait photograph of Pablo Picasso, 1908.

Picasso, Head of Harlequin, 1916, The Art Institute of Chicagio. Photograph by author.
Picasso, Harlequin Playing the Guitar, c. 1916, Elden collection.
Picasso Head Arts Club
Picasso, Head of a Woman, 1922, The Arts Club of Chicago, purchased 1926.
Olga_Khokhlova_in_Picasso's_Montrouge_studio,_spring_1918 (1)

Olga Khokhlova (1891-1955) in Picasso’s Montrouge studio, spring 1918. Olga married Picasso on July 12, 1918, at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Paris. On February 4, 1921, she gave birth to their son Paulo (1921-1975). After that, Olga and Picasso’s relationship deteriorated though they never divorced. Olga died in Cannes in 1955.

Picasso still life 1922

See article in Architectural Digest by Nick Mafi dated July 28, 2020 on the recent discovery associated with the Picasso painting above.  https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/famed-pablo-picasso-painting-reveals-abandoned-artwork-beneath

Picasso, Still Life, February 4, 1922, Oil on canvas 32 1/8 x 39 5/8 in. (81.6 x 100.3 cm), Dated, u.l.: “4-2-22-.” Ada Turnbull Hertle Endowment, 1953. Picasso produced a series of Cubist still lifes in 1922 that are simplified to flat planes in a patterned framework. Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) bought this canvas in 1923 to add to her collection of more than 30 Picasso paintings and even more of his drawings and watercolors. This still life was Stein’s last purchase of a painting by Picasso.

Picasso flute and nude, 1932
Above: Picasso, Double Flute Player and Reclining Nude, October 22, 1932, pen and ink with brush and black wash and scraping on paper, Shapiro collection, 1992. The Art Institute of Chicago.

In late summer and fall of 1932, Picasso and Marie-Thérèse Walter (French, 1909-1977), the artist’s mistress from 1927 to 1935, were together in Boisgeloup. Picasso made three drawings on the same day on a theme of lovers serenading one another.

Picasso_marietherese

Marie-Thérèse Walter and Pablo Picasso. Their relationship began when she was seventeen and Picasso was 45 years old and married to Olga Khokhlova.

Picasso Minotaur and Wounded Horse 1935

Picasso transforms the bullfighting theme where the half-man and half-bull Minotaur is the aggressor in the ring terrorizing a horse.

Picasso, Minotaur and horse, 1935
Images above and below: Picasso, Minotaur and Wounded Horse, Boisgeloup, April 17, 1935, Pen and brush and black inks, graphite, and colored crayons, with smudging, over incising, on cream laid paper, 343 x 515 mm Signed recto, lower right, in graphite: “Picasso” (underlined); inscribed upper right, in graphite: “Boisgeloup–17 Avril XXXV” The Art Institute of Chicago.
Picasso
Picasso, The Red Armchair, and detail below, oil and ripolin on panel; signed, u.r.: “Picasso,” oil and ripolin on panel, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Picasso, Head of Woman (Dora Maar), Paris, April 1, 1939, oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm. Private collection.

Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997) met Picasso in 1936 at the Café des Deux Magots in Paris. Her liaison with Picasso ended in 1943.

weeping woman dora maar 1937
Weeping Woman I, July 1, 1937. Drypoint, aquatint, and etching, with scraping on copper in black on ivory laid paper, 695 x 497 mm (plate); 774 x 568 mm (sheet). The Art Institute of Chicago.

About making portraits of his mistress Dora Maar weeping, Picasso explained: “For years, I’ve painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism and not through pleasure either – just obeying a vision that forced himself on me.” At the end of their relationship Picasso confessed, “I can only see her weeping.”

Dora Maar Picasso Lee Miller 1937
From left: Dora Maar, Picasso, Lee Miller in 1937.
1951 Villa in Vallauris
Picasso, Villa in Vallauris, Vallauris, Feb., 4, 1951, oil on panel. 88.9 x 116.2 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Picasso, large vase with dancers, Vallauris, 1950, red earthenware clay, ground painted in white engobe, 71.2 cm Crown collection.
picasso-gilot-madoura-pottery
Picasso and Françoise Gilot (b. 1921) at Madoura pottery, Vallauris, 1953.

Gilot was lover and muse to Picasso from 1943 to 1953. In the early 1990s I met Françoise Gilot accompanied by her husband, Jonas Sauk (1914-1995), when she was the featured speaker at the Alliance Française in Chicago. That evening Gilot made it perfectly clear upfront that she was not going to talk about Picasso.

Picasso Jacqueline 1962
Picasso, Portrait of Jacqueline, Mougins, Dec. 28, 1962, graphite with smudging and black ballpoint pen on paper. 34.9 x 25 cm., Gray Collection Trust.
Picasso Jacqueline 1959
Picasso, Jacqueline, Cannes or Vauvenargues, October 17, 1959, Linocut in colors on paper, 63.8 x 53 cm., Crown collection.

Jacqueline Roque was muse and second wife of Pablo Picasso. Their marriage lasted 11 years until his death, during which time he created over 400 portraits of her, more than any of Picasso’s other loves.

Jacqueline and Pablo Picasso.

Picasso and Jacqueline, his second wife. Pablo Picasso met Jacqueline Roque (1927-1986) in 1953 when she was 26 years old and he was 72. He romanced her until she agreed to date him. Only in 1955, when Picasso’s first wife Olga Khokhlova died, did Picasso decide to marry Jacqueline in Vallauris in 1961. They were married until Picasso’s death in 1973.

The Chicago Picasso, 1967. In situ in Daley Plaza in Downtown Chicago, July 2015. Photograph by author.

There are 250 items on display in Picasso and Chicago—including paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, and ceramics—and only begins to manifest the prodigious genius of Pablo Picasso.

Picasso and Chicago may have closed, but many, if not most, of these works in Chicago’s cultural institutions and private collections can be savored with the simplicity of a museum visit. A visitor can do no better than visit The Art Institute of Chicago and see Picasso’s The Old Guitarist and The Red Armchair. By that begins one’s own new adventure of absorption of the Spanish master’s artwork whose home is Chicago. The 2013 show is over but more than a few of its best parts are on display right now in these institutions’ permanent collections.

SOURCES:
Miró, Janis Mink, Taschen, 2006.
Je suis Le Cahier: The Sketchbooks of Picasso, 1986, Arnoldo  Mondadori Editore, Verona, Italy.
Picasso and Chicago 100 years, 100 works, Stephanie D’Alessandro, The Art Institute of Chicago, 2013.
Picasso in Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1968.
http://michiganavemag.com/living/articles/aic-opens-picasso-and-chicago
http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780300184525http://chicagoist.com/2013/05/11/last_chance_to_see_picasso_and_chic.php

French Cartoonist fêted, later revealed as Nazi collaborator during World War II: CHAVAL (1915-1968) and the purpose of art history and today’s art exhibitions.

FEATURE image: Chaval’s cartoons, mainly wordless, are often derisive, ironic and filled with dark humor. In the 1950s Chaval was mentioned in American publications with cartoonists such as James Thurber, Charles Addams and William Steig.

By John P. Walsh

The 53-year-old French cartoonist’s suicide in Paris in winter 1968 served as a tragic end to a witty career. Born Yvan Le Louarn near Bordeaux in 1915, Chaval left a suicide note on the apartment door that read “Mind the gas.” But today it is his actions as a young man in his late 20s that mark him for controversy.

Chaval’s professional name is a bastardization of Chevel, an early twentieth century architect for whose work the term “architecture naïve” was coined. While Chevel came to fantastical architecture after being a poor farmer, Chaval trained for years at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the nation’s foremost art school.

It is a specific period in the cartoonist’s past that erupted into a controversy in late spring 2008 as a major French art museum mounted a retrospective exhibition of Chaval’s career. 

During the nearly incredible period of World War II, Chaval created drawings after 1940 with a racist and anti-Semitic slant for publication in Le Progrès, a Vichy newspaper. His drawings were characterized as “Pro-German Vichy and not just” by Pascal Ory, a leading French cultural historian of the Université de Paris-I-Panthéon-Sorbonne. When the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux hosted an exhibition of 120 of Chaval’s pen-and-ink cartoons in summer 2008 none of his wartime anti-Semitic drawings was displayed. In an article in La Croix, the daily Paris Roman Catholic newspaper, Professor Ory revealed the nature of some of these hidden racist works as the exhibition opened.

By the mid 1950s Chaval was an international sensation, his cartoon work mentioned in the same breath in American publications with icons such as James Thurber (1894-1961), Charles Addams (1912-1988) and William Steig (1907-2003). Immediately after the war Chaval was cleared of wrongdoing and started to be published in top French publications—Punch, Le Figaro, Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris Match. He won the industry’s highest awards and remained at the top of his field until the time of his death.

In a June 5, 2008 article Professor Ory described Chaval’s wartime cartoons as “compelling” of racist anti-Semitism.  One published Chaval wartime cartoon Professor Ory described—and the Bordeaux fine arts museum director confirmed its existence—shows two figures with exaggerated noses and wearing yellow stars on their coats. One of them wears two yellow stars and says to the other: “He made me a good price!” Professor Ory criticized not only the drawing’s crude racist ontology but that the Bordeaux art museum would seek to ignore or even cover up the cartoon’s existence in Chaval’s oeuvre. “I’m surprised,” Ory said, speaking in 2008, “that after thirty years of historiography, we are always looking to conceal the period of collaboration under the Occupation in France.”

That the art museum buried Chaval’s early racist work from view without explanation did not stop the museum director, M. Olivier Le Bihan, from defending an impugned Chaval after his controversial work was publicized: “We do not have the right to condemn a man because he made a tendentious drawing. Remember that after the war a trial cleared Chaval of some of the anti-Semitic cartoons ascribed to him. Chaval was called a humanist in Robert Merle’s 1954 Holocaust novel (“Death is my Trade”).”

Professor Ory, author of the classic Les Collaborateurs 1940-1945 (published in 1976), counters that it is “absurd” for the museum to justify the overriding purpose of an art exhibition as “first drawing” or that Chaval “does not deserve this trial of intent” because “he did it to eat.” Professor Ory states there is a “dialogue gap” between art historians and historians that leads to an “endemic lack of historical understanding” of the issues involved in an art exhibition resulting only in an ensuing public spectacle of controversy. Ory points to a similar mistake being made in another 2008 exhibition held in Paris of photographs by collaborationist André Zucca (French, 1897-1973). This exhibition caused a public furor for not being specific about the conditions under which these images of the city during the Nazi Occupation had been made.

Ory contends that Chaval’s case is not simply a matter of a hungry young artist making due in wartime. There is further documentation of Chaval’s friendly relations with racist editors and writers on the Vichy newspaper. Beyond these facts is Professor Ory’s principled belief that “the problem of political engagement is not secondary” to any artist’s life or work. Chaval, professor Ory concludes, is a “draftsman collaborationist” – and though his political affiliations do not detract from his artistic talent it becomes important for the art historian and curator to explain the historical context including “the artist’s overall character” to the viewer. This practices intellectual honesty and makes the enterprise of art making and art exhibition “more human,” according to Ory.

SOURCES: The Best Cartoons From France, Edna Bennett, Philippe Halsman, Simon & Schuster, 1953; C’est la vie: The Best Cartoons of Chaval, Citadel Press, 1957; http://www.la-croix.com/Culture-Loisirs/Culture/Actualite/A-Bordeaux-l-exposition-Chaval-souleve-la-polemique-_NG_-2008-06-05-672010.

GUSTAVE CAILLEBOTTE (1848-1894): The “Tricky Business” of the Caillebotte Bequest.

FEATURE image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Swing, 1876, oil on canvas, 36 1/2 x 28 1/2 inches. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: L’Estaque, c. 1878/9, oil on canvas, 23 1/4 x 28 3/4 inches, Paul Cézanne. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

By John P. Walsh

Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) exhibited together in the Second Impressionist Exhibition in 1876 and became lifelong friends. Just two years later, in 1878, Caillebotte appointed Renoir to be executor of his will. Now in the wake of Caillebotte’s death in 1894, Renoir and Martial Caillebotte (1853-1910), the artist’s younger brother, were resolved to carry out Caillebotte’s final wishes to the letter. The most important charge given to Caillebotte’s advocates was to persuade the French State to accept their late friend’s collection of Impressionist art that came to be known as the “Caillebotte Bequest.” These 68 paintings were the wealthy artist’s assemblage of prime Impressionist art which today provides a glittering foundation for museum collections around the world, especially the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. An exact count of the bequest varies whether based on the inventories by the estate in 1894, by art writer Gustave Geffroy (1855-1926) also in 1894 or by Renoir, Martial Caillebotte and Léonce Bénédite (1859-1925) in 1896.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919) at Montmartre in a photograph by Martial Caillebotte around 1885.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919) at Montmartre in a photograph by Martial Caillebotte around 1885.
Martial Caillebotte (1853–1910), photographer and composer, with brother Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), artist, collector and arts organizer.
Martial Caillebotte (1853–1910), photographer and composer, with brother Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), artist, collector and arts organizer.
Gustave Geffroy (1855-1926) in a portrait photograph by Nadar.
Gustave Geffroy (1855-1926) in a portrait photograph by Nadar.
Léonce Bénédite (1856 - 1925), at left, curator for the Caillebotte Bequest.
Léonce Bénédite (1856 – 1925), at left, curator for the Caillebotte Bequest.

In 1894 Caillebotte’s bequest included paintings by living artists such as Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Alfred Sisley, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Two artists in the collection were already dead – and both Jean Millet (1814-1875) and Édouard Manet (1832-1883) were more highly prized than the others at the time. A vast majority of Caillebotte’s more than five dozen paintings were painted and purchased before 1880.

CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Edouard Manet, The Balcony, 1868-69, oil on canvas, 67 3/4 x 40 1/4 inches,  Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

The French government was accustomed to selecting and purchasing works for the national collection on their own initiative and looked on Caillebotte’s donation as a “tricky business” as expressed by Republican Henry Roujon, Fine Arts administrator who had only recently worked for Jules Ferry. From a wanting-to-oblige Establishment viewpoint the bequest was complicated because Caillebotte boldly stipulated that all 68 works be accepted together and earmarked as a group for entrance into the Louvre. Up to now the French State only had experience in purchasing Sisley and Renoir (“Young Girls at the Piano,” acquired in 1892) for the national collection. Moreover the acceptance of Caillebotte’s collection would change State policy to exhibit no more than three works by any artist for Caillebotte’s bequest included more paintings than that number for each artist. Although twenty years had passed since the first Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1874, the French State had never taken much of a public interest in this diverse group of nonacademic artists.  On the other side of the table as Renoir and Martial Caillebotte were primarily concerned with the State’s acceptance of the entire body of work, those living artists in the bequested collection had their concerns if they succeeded.

Henry Roujon (French, 1853-1914).
Henry Roujon (French, 1853-1914) in 1912.

One antidote to this attitude of entrenchment was that the Republican French state in 1894 was halfway into its second decade of shepherding progressive policies onto France and its cultural leaders realized this must extend to a determined national support for this windfall of abstruse avant-garde artists. Following a year of negotiation with executors Renoir and the younger Caillebotte the State cut its deal. They might have refused the whole lot of them, but accepted a majority of the bequest and more than one painting of each artist. Further they formally agreed to exhibit all 40 works and they were duly hung in the Musée du Luxembourg in February 1897. In addition to two by Millet, these 38 Impressionist masterworks are today in the Musée D’Orsay. None of Caillebotte’s own paintings were included in the legacy. Protests by traditional art voices were now useless: the Impressionists,  accused of “ruining young artists,” were now on national museum walls. Cézanne’s response to the inclusion of two of his paintings is forthright: “Now (William-Adolphe) Bouguereau can go to hell!” During this hard-edged contest to determine which artists and art works were included or excluded, it was not the museums that picked up the pieces but the mainly French and American collectors as well as the gallery dealers who mounted historic one-man shows for Caillebotte (at Durand-Ruel in June 1894), for Cézanne (at Ambroise Vollard in 1895) and for Monet (Durand-Ruel in May 1895).

CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Claude Monet, Luncheon in the Garden, 1873-74, oil on canvas, 63 x 79 1/8 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Girl Reading, c. 1874, oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 15 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
railway-bridge-at-chatou-1881
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Railroad Bridge at Chatou, 1881, oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 25 1/2 inches. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
study-torso-sunlight-effect
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Study (Nude in the sunlight), 1875, oil on canvas, 31 7/8 x 25 1/2 inches. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
swing-renoir-jpeg
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Swing, 1876, oil on canvas, 36 1/2 x 28 1/2 inches. Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Edgar Degas, Women on the Terrace of a cafe in the Evening, 1877, pastel over monotype, 16 1/2 x 23 5/8 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Edgar Degas, The Chorus,1876/77, pastel over monotype, 10 5/8 x12 1/4 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
the-star
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Edgar Degas, L’Etoile (the Star), 1876/77, pastel over monotype, 22 7/8 x 16 1/2 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Edgar Degas, Femme sortant du bain, vers 1876, pastel sur monotype, H. 0.16 ; L. 0.215, musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Camille Pissarro, Red Roofs, Village scene, Winter Effect, 1877, oil on canvas, 21 1/2 x 15 1/4 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
the-harvest-at-montfoucault-1876
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Camille Pissarro, Harvest at Montfoucault, 1876, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 36 1/4 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
the-vegetable-garden-with-trees-in-blossom-spring-pontoise-by-camille-pissarro-1877
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Camille Pissarro, The Vegetable Garden with Trees in Blossom, Spring, Pontoise, 1877, Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 31 7/8 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
Regatta at Argenteuil
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Claude Monet, Regattas at Argenteuil, c. 1872, oil on canvas, 17 3/4 x 29 1/2 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Alfred Sisley, Boat Races at Molesey, 1874, oil on canvas, 26 x 35 3/4 inches, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Claude Monet, The Church at Vétheuil, Snow, 1878-79, oil on canvas, 20 1/2 x 28 in., Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Auguste Renoir, Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, 1876, Oil on canvas, H. 131; W. 175 cm © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

The settlement accepted in January 1895 and promulgated a year later was not the last word for Renoir who continued to try to fully achieve his friend’s terms. On at least two occasions – in 1904 and 1908 –  the works refused by the State in 1894 were proffered to them. Both times these 28 remaining works were refused and as far as the French State was concerned the case of the Caillebotte Bequest was closed. Only by his death in 1919 were Renoir’s efforts to honor Caillebotte’s bequest to France halted (Martial had died in 1910). In 1928, over thirty years after Caillebotte’s death and bequest, the French State dared to make a legal claim to those remaining 28 works they had rejected three times previously. Inexorably cloaked in superiority, this latest endeavor of the official art establishment revealed its opportunism as the changing winds of taste now clearly favored Impressionism. Both original executors of Caillbotte’s bequest now dead, it was left to Martial Caillebotte’s son’s widow to respond to these highly-placed administrative scratchings. Her decision: she refused to hand over these works and placed them on the open market. The “rejected” and overlooked works of the “Caillebotte Bequest” were sold to private collectors all over the world, including to Americans Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951), and H.O. Havemeyer (1847-1907) and Louisine Havemeyer (1855-1929). Many of these remainder works’ locations are unknown.

Baigneurs au repos BAthers at rest Barnes 1876 7  oil on canvas
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Bathers at rest, (Baigneurs au repos), 1876/77, oil on canvas, 32 5/16 x 39 7/8 inches, Paul Cézanne. The Barnes Foundation.
CAILLEBOTTE BEQUEST: Edgar Degas, The Dance Lesson, c. 1879, pastel and black chalk on three pieces of wove paper, 25 3/8 x 22 1/8/inches, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.

SOURCES: Anne Distel, Impressionism: the First Collectors, Abrams, 1990; Anne Distel, Douglas W. Druick, Gloria Groom, Rodolphe Rapetti and Kirk Varnedoe, Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist, 1995; http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/history-of-the-collections/painting.html; http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/312.html?page=2