- Paul Gauguin
- Les Mas, environs d'Arles
- Signed P. Gauguin and dated 88 (lower left)
- Oil on canvas
Boussod et Valadon, Paris (circa 1890)
Probably (sold: Paul Gauguin, Paris, February 23, 1891, lot 13 or 26)
Probably either Georges-Daniel de Montfried, Paris or M. Michau, Paris (acquired at the above sale)
Lucien Walery, Paris (sold: Paris, April 12, 1935, lot 78)
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (by 1942 and sold: Parke Bernet, New York, January 17-18, 1945, lot 164)
Jacques Chambrun (acquired at the above sale)
A.J. Cronin, Vevey (acquired from the above)
Private Collection, Switzerland (by descent from the above and sold: Christie's, London, February 6, 2001, lot 7)
Acquired at the above sale
Paris, Café Volpini, 1889, no. 37
Providence, Rhode Island Museum of Art, French Art of the 19th and 20th Centuries, 1942, no. 29
Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art & Amsterdam, The Van Gogh Museum, Paul Gauguin, The Breakthrough into Modernity, 2009, no. 37, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Maurice Malingue ed., Lettres de Gauguin á sa femme et á ses amis, Paris, 1946, p. 153
René Huyghe, Le Carnet de Paul Gauguin, 1952, p. 20
Georges Wildenstein, Gauguin, vol. I, Paris, 1964, no. 310, illustrated p. 116 (titled Les Mas d'Arles)
Daniel Wildenstein, Gauguin. Premier itinéraire d’un sauvage.Catalogue de l’œuvre peint (1873-1888), vol. 1, Paris, 2001, no. 324, illustrated in color p. 539
Gauguin's Arles paintings are a continuation of the themes he developed in Brittany. He first visited the region in 1886 and was immediately inspired by the surrounding landscape. A trip to the Antilles in 1887 did not signal a break with his development in this style – indeed the primitive landscape of Martinique offered a parallel to the rural scenes he had depicted in France, and the intense tropical sun allowed him to continue his exploration of light and color.
Although his paintings from this period represent the height of his engagement with Impressionism, Les mas, environs d’Arles also exemplifies his distinctive approach to painting. As Judy Le Paul explains: “Aware of the way Japanese artists constructed certain of their landscapes, Gauguin began to turn away from Western influences. The general rule of a centrally placed horizon… gave way to a horizon near the top of the canvas or even raised beyond its boundaries. Using a steep perspective, Gauguin narrowed the field of vision, consciously cutting up the landscape to concentrate on one detail or fragment at the expense of another” (J. Le Paul, Gauguin and the Impressionists at Pont-Aven, New York, 1987, p. 80). In the present work Gauguin employs this technique to masterful effect building a dynamic landscape that is full of local incident and detail.
His paintings of this period are intimately concerned with the everyday routine of rural life but the human element – the peasants that he saw working in the fields – often plays a secondary role within the composition. In Les mas, environs d’Arles the figures are barely visible among the verdant greenery of the landscape; all that can be glimpsed of them are the distinctive coiffe de none that characterise the peasants in so many of his Pont-Aven paintings. In the present work Gauguin confines them to the periphery, focusing instead on capturing the rich color and atmosphere of this new environment.
This fruitful period, however, was not to last. Relations between the two artists became increasingly strained through December, culminating in the now infamous incident on 23rd December in which van Gogh reportedly threatened Gauguin with a razor. Gauguin spent that night at a hotel, and when he returned in the morning he found that van Gogh had cut off his left ear.
Although this picture was formerly known by the title Paysage d'Arles avec buissons, the new catalogue raisonné lists it as Les Mas, environs d'Arles, which was its title when it was sold in 1935. As for the picture's early history, it is uncertain whether this work was sold in the sale of the artist's studio in 1891 and purchased by de Monfreid under the title Les Mas (lot 13) or Paysage d'Arles (lot 26), purchased by Michau. What is certain is that this work was in the possession of Stanislas Lucien Walery (1863-1935), the French photographer famous for his salacious portraits of nudes.