Lot 109
  • 109

Paul Gauguin

100,000 - 150,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Paul Gauguin
  • Tête de femme (recto); Trois personnes et un canard (verso)
  • Watercolor, black chalk and pencil on paper


Ambroise Vollard, Paris
Quatre Chemins-Editart, Paris
Acquired from the above in 1954


New York, Wildenstein & Co., Gauguin: Loan Exhibition for the Benefit of the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York City, Inc., 1956, no. 66
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


Bernard Dorival, Carnet de Tahiti: Paul Gauguin, Paris, 1954, illustrated p. 11
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

Catalogue Note

Using only essential lines, Tête de Femme demonstrates the artist's interest in primitivism and represents his mystical vision of life; it breaks away from what he considered a superficial Western painting lacking in personal artistic investment. Linda Goddard states: "Gauguin constructed a mythical vision of Tahiti as a tropical paradise—at once unspoiled and possessing an undercurrent of savagery and sexual adventure" (Linda Goddard, Gauguin, Maker of Myth (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 2010, p. 33).

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).