Details & Cataloguing

A Private View: Property from the Country Home of Christopher Cone and Stanley J. Seeger


Paul Gauguin
1848 - 1903
signed P. Gauguin (lower right)
oil on canvas
11.8 by 9.2cm., 4 3/4 by 7 1/2 in.
Painted in 1884.
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Paul Desforges, Rouen
Sotheby's, New York, Mrs Frank J. Gould, New York & Cannes, 25 April 1985, lot 177
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Georges Wildenstein, Gauguin, Catalogue, Paris, 1964, vol. I, no. 130, illustrated p. 49
Daniel Wildenstein, Gauguin, Catalogue de l'œuvre peint (1873-1888), Paris, 2001, vol. I, no. 159, illustrated p. 187

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1884, Tête de chat is a tender portrait of a cat who looks calmly at the viewer, propped up on extended paws. 1884 was a seminal year for Paul Gauguin, who made the bold decision to dedicate himself full-time to an artistic career. Until then, Gauguin’s pursuit of painting, and even his forays into sculpture and decorative arts, had been liminal to his primary occupation as a successful stockbroker.

Having moved to Rouen with his family in January, he worked primarily on landscapes in a similar vein to his friend and mentor Camille Pissarro, who had also spent time working in Rouen. Gauguin made several efforts to develop the same Impressionist style as his peers, yet these were variously met with a lukewarm response, and largely dismissed by Pissarro for lacking an essential vitality. Subsequently, the artist relinquished his attempts to emulate his peers, and started to paint in his own manner. In this vein Gauguin created several miniature portraits at this time in his own unique style. Each work seeming to encapsulate a certain fondness with its diminutive scale, especially noticeable in the present work. The hint of a red ribbon around the subject's neck suggests an intimate relationship: this was perhaps a family pet or a frequent visitor to the Gauguin household. 

Cats would feature extensively in Gauguin’s later work, prowling the sandy Tahitian landscapes for which the artist is renowned, or simply as peripheral feline presence, alluded to by a disappearing tail at the edge of the frame. 

A Private View: Property from the Country Home of Christopher Cone and Stanley J. Seeger