A painting and a “dessin-empreinte ? by Gauguin acquired by the Getty Museum

1. Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Arii Matamoe
(The Royal End), 1892
Huile sur toile
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
Photo : J. Paul Getty Trust

15/3/08 — Acquisitions — Los Angeles, Getty Museum — The Getty Museum has just announced the purchase of The Royal End (Arii Matamoe) by Paul Gauguin (ill. 1) from a private collector. This canvas, absent from the retrospective Gauguin Tahiti in Paris and Boston in 1993/1994, had been shown at the Fondation Pierre Giannada in Martigny in 1998.
Painted in 1892, it represents the cut-off head of a man lying on a table on top of a white cushion. In the background, a woman is crying. This is not a representation of a macabre local custom even if it might be an allegory for the death of the Polynesian king Pomare V who died just before the painter arrived in the archipelago in 1891. Gauguin is trying to link the Western theme, a frequent practice of the Symbolist School, of the beheaded man and the ancestral traditions of the Tahitian environment. Just like Géricault, Gauguin was fascinated by beheadings. He had attended the guillotining of a prisoner sentenced to death in 1888.

2. Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Eve (The Nightmare), recto
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
Photo : J. Paul Getty Trust

In 2007, the Getty Museum had already enriched its holdings by acquiring a drawing (ill. 2) also dating from the Tahitian period. The technique used ("dessin-estampe"), created by Gauguin, consists in covering a sheet of paper entirely with printing ink, then placing another sheet on top (this one will become the completed work) and drawing on it. The ink goes on backwards and “unfolds” the composition in two, giving it a more pictorial aspect which is the goal of the artist.

The Getty Museum owns another drawing by Gauguin (Head of a Tahitian Woman) and a sculpture (Head with Horns) but Arii Matamoe is the first painting by the artist to enter its collections.

Version française

Didier Rykner, samedi 15 mars 2008

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