The present work, as well as three other works from the Lewyt Collection, Tête de femme, Taoa and Tetua, comes from a sketchbook that Gauguin kept during his first trip to Tahiti. This sketchbook, Carnet de Tahiti, “was a small volume of 130 leaves measuring 17 x 11 cm. of which twenty-nine were blank and the others covered with innumerable sketches in black and white or heightened with watercolours; they date from Gauguin’s first stay in Tahiti and reveal the most intimate and spontaneous aspect of his activity as a draughtsman” (Jean Leymarie, Gauguin: Watercolors, Pastels, Drawings, New York, 1989, p. 48). It has been suggested that the present work and Taoa were studies for Le Repas, a large oil painting now in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay (see fig. 1).
When Gauguin first arrived in Tahiti in 1891 he made numerous sketches: “It seems that many of Gauguin’s sketches…were executed during the first months, while his impressions were still new and before he dared use color. These studies constitute indeed a 'documentation' of a peculiar kind. They show helter-skelter landscapes with lush vegetation, natives in various characteristic attitudes, squatting women, mothers nursing their babies, numerous heads of children, images of idols, tracings of ornamental designs...” (John Rewald, Gauguin Drawings, New York, 1958, p. 15). Fare and other drawings from Carnet de Tahiti can be seen as some of Gauguin first works and interpretation of the new world which surrounded him in Tahiti.
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