Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sotheby's To Sell Paul Gauguin Masterwork of Stunning Tahitian Scene For Est. $40/60 Million

Sotheby's To Sell Paul Gauguin Masterwork of Stunning Tahitian Scene For Est. $40/60 Million

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Paul Gauguin, Te Poipoi (The Morning), 1892. Est. $40/60 million. © Sotheby's Images.

NEW YORK.- On the evening of November 7, 2007, Sotheby’s in New York will offer for sale Paul Gauguin’s Te Poipoi (The Morning), one of the greatest Tahitian scenes by the artist remaining in private hands. For the past 62 years, this painting was part of one of the most illustrious collections ever formed in America, that of Joan Whitney Payson. Acquired by Mrs. Payson and her husband, Charles, in 1945, this stunning scene of an exotic paradise hung alongside masterpieces by artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and others, and has been consigned for sale by her family. Executed in Tahiti in September or October 1892, the painting is estimated to sell for $40/60 million (£20/30 million). Prior to auction, the painting will be on view at Sotheby’s London from October 7-12 and in New York from November 2-7, 2007.

David Norman, Executive Vice President, a Chairman of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art Department Worldwide, said, “Sotheby’s is thrilled to have yet another occasion to represent one of the greatest collecting families in America. Joan Whitney Payson and her brother John Hay Whitney were each the very definition of the enlightened, passionate and daring American collector in the 20th century, and their previous sales, whether directly or indirectly, through Sotheby’s – Vincent van Gogh’s Irises, Pierre-August Renoir’s Au Moulin de la Galette, Pablo Picasso’s Au Lapin Agile and Boy with a Pipe, among others -- represent not only many of the world’s greatest works of art, but also landmarks of the modern art market.

“For Paul Gauguin, the towering figure who provided the bridge from Impressionism to 20th century Modernism, the search to represent the ideal in art took him outside the comforts of western tradition toward the great exoticism of remote Tahiti. In the present work, the artist represents a quintessential Tahitian scene – an unspoiled landscape populated by native women going about their daily routines in the midst of a sun drenched, color-rich paradise.”

In Te Poipoi, Gauguin presents a highly idealized version of paradise, untouched by western influence. This stunning canvas was painted on the island’s southern coastal region of Mataiea in September or October 1892, about a year into the artist’s first extended stay in French Polynesia. The title of the painting refers to the still and quiet morning hours when the local people began their day. We can imagine Gauguin’s voyeuristic pleasure in watching this intimate scene of women bathing beneath a canopy of banyan and mango trees. Te Poipoi is a refreshingly modern and daring interpretation of the ritual of the bath, one of the most symbolically loaded themes in the history of western art. Edgar Degas presented one of the best well-known modern interpretations of this theme by focusing exclusively on the bodies of his young models standing over their metal tubs. Gauguin would have been well-acquainted with these images because he had exhibited with Degas in 1887 at the final Impressionist group exhibition in Paris.

When Gauguin returned to France in August 1893, he brought back with him over sixty canvases and selected the best among them, including the present work, for a one-man exhibition at Durand-Ruel. After suffering a number of visits with his estranged family in Copenhagen and a broken leg in a street brawl in Pont Aven, Gauguin longed to return to the South Pacific. In order to raise money for the trip back, he sold several canvases at auction at Hôtel Drouot, including the present work, and in June 1895 set sail for Tahiti, where he would remain for the rest of his life.

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