oil on canvas
Sale, Hotel Drouot, Paris, Vente O'Conor, 7 Febraury 1956;
Sale, Libert, Paris, 23 March 1981;
Jonathan Benington, Roderic O'Conor, a Biography with a Catalogue of his Work, Dublin 1992, no.47, as Still life with pitcher, jug and pears
Nature morte aux poires is a traditional still life which O'Conor painted in Rochefort-en-Terre in Morbihan in 1896. Although most of O'Conor's 13 years in Brittany between 1891 and 1904 were spent in and around the villages of Pont-Aven and le Pouldu, his move to Rochefort-en-Terre in 1895 assumes special significance when viewed in the context of his association with Paul Gauguin and his circle of artists. Gauguin visited Brittany on 5 separate occasions and it was on his last visit to Pont-Aven in the summer of 1894 that he and O'Conor developed a close friendship. O'Conor's contact with Gauguin filled his head with new theories and concepts about art and painting which were frequently articulated in animated discussions among his group of followers. As Clive Bell later remarked, ‘what seems to me clear is that Gauguin's strength of character and convincing style of talk made a deep impression on the young or youngish Irishman, and I dare say it was the only deep impression he ever received from a fellow creature. That Gauguin had a way of talking, moving and looking which caught his imagination I feel sure (Clive Bell,Old Friends, London, 1956, p.166).
According to Jaworska, O'Conor retained a sceptical attitude towards much that Gauguin said, and when Alfred Jarry met the Irish painter in Pont-Aven in 1895 he, too, commented on O'Conor's degree of detatchment and distance from Gauguin's then radical theories (see Wladyslawa Jaworska, Gauguin et l'école de Pont-Aven, Paris 1971, 'Chapter XI An Irish Expressionist - Roderic O'Conor') . In later years O'Conor viewed Gauguin's work as having an artificial literary quality which he felt should not have been there.
When Gauguin finally left France in 1895, his group of followers, no longer rallied by his charisma and leadership, gradually disbanded and its members moved away from the area to create their own destinies in other places. Pont-Aven was becoming overcrowded with artists of dubious quality who arrived there from Paris every summer. O'Conor must have anticipated that he would be more in the public eye and sought after by artists for whom he had little respect who were eager to talk to him about Gauguin and his often misunderstood theories.
O'Conor's reaction was to move, probably late in the spring of 1895 before the summer influx of visitors, to a different and much quieter location off the beaten track. In Rochefort-en-Terre in Morbihan, about 125 kilometres to the east of Pont-Aven, he found the tranquility he seems to have needed. His base between 1895 and 1898 became the Hotel Lecadre where the proprietor was sympathetic to artists. The evidence from his paintings shows that in this relatively isolated environment he seems to have entered into a period of reflection and introspection. Paintings such as Nature morte aux poires show a return to primary values of depiction and a preference for more conservative subject matter than what he had pursued in Pont-Aven.
In executing this painting O'Conor has taken the simplest of arrangements and allowed softly diffused light to fall across the curved surfaces of the large pitcher, the pears and the small round bellied jug. It almost seems that in this painting O'Conor was testing himself against the traditional values associated with objective painting. The colour changes are less aggressive than in his earlier Pont-Aven landscapes and his reliance on brushed techniques has enhanced the softly modelled forms of the objects and drapery in this tranquil still life.
Roy Johnston Ph.D.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale