1848-1903 | FrenchFils de l’artiste couché
(The Artist’s Son Lying Down)
En verso: Tête de bébé endormi
(Sleeping Baby's Head)
Charcoal on paper
A significant rarity to the art market, this touching portrait by the legendary Paul Gauguin displays both the artist’s remarkable eye for composition and the love he felt for his subject, his infant son, Jean René. Works by the esteemed Gauguin hardly ever become available for acquisition. This particular piece, executed in the nascency of the artist’s career, is exceptionally rare because Gauguin executed so few compositions during this period. Incredibly, this work includes a second early composition from the artist; the reverse features another drawing of his son. Each work exhibits a depth of emotion and an intuitive understanding of line, foreshadowing the heights of artistry and success Gauguin would achieve.
Gauguin’s artistic career began only after his job as a stockbroker came to an abrupt end due to the Paris stock market crash of 1882. Art had been a hobby for him prior to this, but financial uncertainties and an ever-growing family to support pushed him to pursue this passion. With little money to purchase art supplies, Gauguin found himself stretching his resources as far as possible, creating very few works during the 1880s, of which this touching portrayal of his son is included.
It is in this composition that the viewer can discern the technical proficiency that attracted the attention and admiration of fellow artists including Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Degas. It was Pissarro who convinced Gauguin to enter a painting in the Salon of 1876. Pissarro and Degas were so taken by his work that they invited Gauguin to exhibit at the 1879 Impressionist Exhibition and subsequent exhibitions thereafter. Pissarro took Gauguin under his wing, schooling him in the Impressionist technique.
This work bears the added distinction of remaining in the Gauguin family for several decades, long after the artist’s death. His wife, Mette Gauguin kept the work until the 1920s when she gifted it to her nephew and Danish film director, Peter Urban Gad. It then remained in the Gad family until circa 1948. The back of this drawing bears a hand-written inscription from Mette to her nephew that reads, “To my dear P. Urban this picture of the boy your father loved so dearly. From, yours as ever, Aunt Mette.”
Reflecting his distinct individuality, Gauguin’s work is instantly recognizable today for its exuberance and daring beauty. Although prolific, his work hardly ever becomes available for acquisition. Other drawings by Gauguin reside today in prestigious museum collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) and the Tate Modern (London)
, and this particular work has been included in several public exhibitions on the artist.
This work will be included in the forthcoming Gauguin digital catalog raisonné currently being prepared by the Wildenstein Plattner Institute.
Executed in 1882
Paper: 12 3/8” high x 10” wide
Frame: 26 1/2” high x 23 1/4” wide
Mette Gauguin, Copenhagen.
Gifted to Gauguin’s nephew, Peter Urban Gad, before 1926.
Ms. Urban Gad, circa 1948
Sale, Copenhague, Arne Bruun Rasmuseen, 29-30 May 1969, lot 277.
Sale, Sotheby's, New York, Parke-Bernet, 19 May 1983, lot 204.
The Art Emporium, Vancouver.
Sale, Christie's, New York, 15 November 1990, lot 104.
Sale, Christie's, New York, 4 November 2004, lot 106.
The Kelton Collection, United States.
M.S. Rau, New Orleans
Oslo, Nasjonalgalleriet, Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, Copenhagen, Glyptotek, Gauguin in Scandenavian Collections
, March-May 1926, no. 42
Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Paul Gauguin
, May-June 1948, no. 64
Rome, Complesso del Vittoriano, Paul Gauguin: Artist of Myth and Dream
, October 2007 - February 2008, no. 9, p.168, reproduced in color p.169