- Paul Gauguin
- Tête de femme (recto); Trois personnes et un canard (verso)
- Watercolor, black chalk and pencil on paper
Quatre Chemins-Editart, Paris
Acquired from the above in 1954
Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago & New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gauguin: Paintings, Drawings, Prints, Sculpture, 1959, no. 86
Martigny, Swtizerland, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Gauguin, 1998, no. 74, illustrated in color in the catalogue
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gauguin in New York Collections: The Lure of the Exotic, 2002, no. 51, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Jean Leymarie, Gauguin: Aquarelle, Pastelle und farbige Zeichnungen, 1959, illustrated in color p. 16
Jean Leymarie, Gauguin: Watercolors, Pastels, Drawings, New York, 1989, illustrated in color p. 49
The work is drawn in decisive chalk lines and filled in with watercolor, creating the contour of the sitter's face balanced by her strong features. The subject is imbued with a certain solemnity and mystery as she stares out at the viewer. Contrasting Gauguin's paintings and their colorful appeal, the present work is powerful in its stark execution. It emphasizes that his studies and sketches remain amongst his most personal works, and as such are of supreme artistic and documentary importance.
Gauguin's 1893 memoir Noa noa reveals that the artist himself could not help but consider the exquisite beauty of Tahitian women: "In order to understand the secret in a Tahitian face, all the charm of a Maori smile, I had been wanting for a long time to do the portrait of a neighboring woman of pure Tahitian race... [T]he majesty and uplifted lines of her forehead recalled these lines by Poe: 'There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion'" (Paul Gauguin, Noa noa, 1893, reprinted in The Lure of the Exotic, Gauguin in New York Collections (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2002, p. 86).