TEFAF is coming in mid-March (the 12th-21st, to be exact) and that means the fair is promoting some of its marquee pieces. Dickinson has this Gaugin, Deux Femmes, that it is offering for a private collector at $26m. Here’s the fair’s press release:
The rare late Tahitian Gauguin will be one of the highlights of The European Fine Art Fair reinforcing its reputation for offering the very best works of art for sale. The picture was painted in 1902, a year before Gauguin’s death, while he was living on Hiva Oa in the remote Marquesas Islands 740 miles from Tahiti. Unhappy with what he saw as the increasingly European colonial atmosphere on the main Tahitian islands, he landed at Atuona, the capital of Hiva Oa, in September 1901.
Gauguin praised the Marquesas in a letter to his friend Daniel de Monfried. ‘I assure you from the point of view of painting it’s admirable,’ he told him. ‘Poetry emerges here of its own accord, and it can be evoked simply by allowing oneself to dream while painting. I ask for just two years of good health and not too many money worries, which now have excessive hold over my nervous temperament, in order to reach a certain maturity in my art.’
Unfortunately his wish for good health was not to be granted. His illness was probably partially responsible for the increasingly dream-like nature of his art and his late paintings from the Marquesas, such as Deux Femmes, are more self-referential. They are a composite of motifs drawn from Western art, Gauguin’s collection of photographs and memories and symbols sourced from his own life and work.
The symbolism of Deux Femmes is obscure, and rests on an arcane vocabulary developed by Gauguin. However the mysterious nature of the painting, accentuated by the lush, intoxicating richness of the colours, brilliantly portrays the exotic primitivism at the root of Gauguin’s fascination with the inhabitants of the Pacific islands. The two female figures relate to the Biblical character of Eve, a key figure in Gauguin’s personal mythology, while the fox sitting outside the house has a long history in his oeuvre as a symbol of perversity. In the last months of 1902 and early 1903 Gauguin’s health declined and on the island of Hiva Oa on 8 May 1902 he died.
Deux Femmes is first recorded in the collection of Marie Paul Voûte (1882-1955), a member of a family of successful Dutch merchants. It is thought to have been the first Tahitian Gauguin to enter a Dutch collection and Voute is known to have also owned two paintings by Van Gogh.