Kojiro Matsukata, Japan (acquired from the above in August 1921)
Kawasaki Dockyard, Co., Ltd., Kobe (transferred from the above in 1927)
The Jûgo Bank, Tokyo (seized from the above circa 1927-28. Sold: Bijutsukan, Tokyo, 5th Matsukata sale, 6th-20th February 1934, lot 25)
Sale: Asahikaikan, Osaka, 20th-24th February 1935, lot 61
Private Collection, Japan (purchased at the above sale)
Thence by descent to the present owners
(possibly) Prague, Municipal House, Exhibition of French Art XIX and XX Century. 66th Exhibition of the Artists Association Mánes, 1923, no. 186 (titled Fruits et fleurs and with incorrect measurements)
Tokyo, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Collection Matsukata, 1934, no. 25, illustrated in the catalogue
The Old Matsukata Collection. Occidental Art, Kobe, 1990, no. 696, illustrated p. 190 (with incorrect measurements)
Daniel Wildenstein, Gauguin. Premier itinéraire d'un sauvage. Catalogue de l'œuvre peint (1873-1888), Paris, 2001, vol. I, no. 94, illustrated p. 105 (with incorrect measurements)
This important transition owed much to the significant influence of Cézanne, several of whose pictures Gauguin owned. In 1881 Gauguin joined Cézanne and Pissarro, painting en plein air in the area around Pontoise. In a letter to Pissarro written several years later, in July 1884, Gauguin described Cézanne’s painting as ‘marvels of an essentially pure art’ (quoted in The Lure of the Exotic. Gauguin in New York Collections (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2002, p. 183). Writing about the three artists’ joint painting expeditions, Richard Shiff commented: ‘Observing Cézanne’s technique on those occasions changed the trajectory of Gauguin’s aesthetic life. He resolved to achieve a comparable directness. By 1884, he was also among the most active of Cézanne’s handful of collectors. His purchases included a still life that he would make famous by featuring it in impromptu demonstrations offered to fellow painters, explaining the naïve genius of Cézanne’s accents of bold color, applied as discrete, parallel strokes of the brush […]. In general, when Gauguin followed what he perceived as Cézanne’s method – primarily the use of blunt strokes that remained visually distinct – he showed more respect for the inherent form of objects than his aesthetic model did’ (R. Shiff in The World is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne (exhibition catalogue), The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia & The Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario, 2014-15, pp. 150 & 154).
The important influence of Cézanne is visible in Fleurs dans un panier which shows a marked difference from the still-lifes of contemporaries such as Monet and Renoir who were more closely associated with Impressionism (fig. 1). Conventional perspective is all but abandoned with the space between the table or sideboard and the wall behind indicated only by a change in colour and brushstroke. Instead depth is indicated by the cloth on which the basket of flowers sits and which extends forwards and almost out of the picture towards the viewer. The vibrancy of the flowers is indicated by smaller, more intense strokes of paint and a warmth of palette that in some respects seems to anticipate the richness of colour that would so entrance the artist on his first visit to Tahiti six years later. This is directly contrasted with the delicate and cool whites, blues and pinks that make up the cloth and are once again reminiscent of Cézanne.
However, whilst Gauguin might have looked to Cézanne for inspiration in terms of form and colour, he also sought an independent artistic voice. His technique is markedly different, as Richard R. Brettell argues: ‘in the paintings they made in and around Pontoise in the early 1880s Gauguin and Cézanne struggled to create works with very different factures and chromatic structures. Rarely did Gauguin approach the “constructivist stroke” of Cézanne, preferring his “woven” facture’ (R. R. Brettell in Gauguin and Impressionism (exhibition catalogue), Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 2005-06, p. 171). These ‘woven’ brushstrokes are used to striking effect in the present work, particularly in the basket where they have the dual purpose of indicating both form and texture. More than these differences in technique though, Fleurs dans un panier exudes a vibrant, exotic quality that is entirely the artist’s own and which anticipates the dramatic change in the artist’s life and art that would follow with his departure to the South Seas in 1891.
This work has been requested for the exhibition of the Matsukata Collection, to be held at the The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo from June to September 2019.
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