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Artcurial to offer a Tahitian masterpiece by Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin, Te Bourao II. Oil on canvas. Signed, dated and titled on the lower right "97 TE BOURAO P.Gauguin", 73 X 92 cm. Estimate: 5-7 M €.

PARIS.- From 3 to 31 October 2019, Artcurial is offering a preview of a Tahitian masterpiece by Paul Gauguin: Te Bourao II. Set to be auctioned by Artcurial for the very first time on 3 December 2019, during its Impressionist & Modern Art sales, it is estimated at €5-7M.

Painted in Tahiti in 1897, this oil on canvas is a legacy piece that encapsulates the artist’s Tahitian themes and obsessions from a period when he was plagued by multiple torments.

Te Bourao II comes from a major cycle of nine paintings that Paul Gauguin produced in Tahiti and sent back to Paris in 1898, for a solo exhibition at the Ambroise Vollard gallery. Amongst these masterpieces was his iconic piece Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?. Te Bourao II is the only work in this set that is still privately owned; the eight others hang in the world’s most prestigious institutions: the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

In the years since 1898, Te Bourao II has featured in the major exhibitions on Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian period all over the world, at the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Grand Palais and Musée d’Orsay in Paris. It was even the object of a long-term loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where it was displayed for ten years from 2007 to 2017.

“In this legacy work from his Tahitian cycle, Paul Gauguin passionately delivers the quintessence of his Tahitian obsessions. The subtle palette reveals an enigmatic nature, full of symbols: a stream which twists and turns, the flower in bloom, the horseman who is riding away...Man’s fleeting stay on earth reveals itself in the creator’s brush strokes, from the lost paradise of childhood to the obscure mystery of the after life. ” Bruno Jaubert, Director Impressionist & Modern Art Department, Artcurial.

“Artcurial is once again honoured to be presenting a major work with historical ties to the world's foremost museums. Te Bourao II leaves the MET picture frames to be offered on the market for the first time. It has been more than 20 years since any work from Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian period has been sold on the French market.” Fabien Naudan, Vice Chairman, Artcurial.

Paul Gauguin, the studio in the Polynesian tropics
Paul Gauguin, the studio in the Polynesian tropics Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) was born in Paris, to a middle-class French family. He joined the merchant navy aged 17 and discovered the Polynesian islands in the course of his travels. Following the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871, he became a stockbroker and met Gustave Arosa, a businessman and great lover of art, who introduced him to the Impressionists. Paul Gauguin began collecting himself, and decided to try his hand at painting. Between 1874 and 1886, he met Camille Pissarro, who became his mentor, and took part in exhibitions by the Impressionist group. He also won the friendship of Edgar Degas, who would become one of his staunchest supporters, buying several of his canvases. Between 1886 and 1888, he travelled to Pont-Aven in Brittany and then to Martinique, before joining Vincent Van Gogh in Arles.

In 1891, the artist set sail for Tahiti, in search of a new experience and to escape from the western civilisation that was too artificial for his taste. Demonstrating a keen interest in Polynesian culture, he abandoned western-style painting for a more primitive approach and bold use of colour. He painted over 70 canvases in a matter of months. However, within a short space of time, Gauguin sank into depression, overcome by administrative, personal and health problems. Despite the solitude and material deprivation, he produced some of his finest works, expressing his mystical vision of life. They included his vast legacy work, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, which he painted in 1897.

Te Bourao II, a major cycle of 9 Tahitian paintings
It was in this context that Paul Gauguin created in 1897, the oil on canvas Te Bourao II that Artcurial will offer at auction on 3 December 2019. In a famous letter to his friend Daniel de Monfreid dated February 1898, Gauguin describes his presumed suicide attempt and his desire to produce a “large canvas” (Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?) before dying that would be likely to win him posthumous renown. In another letter to Monfreid, he explains his intention to send this work back, along with others. In July, he is as good as his word and sends nine works (including Te Bourao II) to Paris for his intended exhibition. The paintings arrive in France in early November and are received, stretched and framed by Daniel de Monfreid and the artist Georges Chaudet.

On 17 November 1898, the exhibition dedicated to the Tahitian works of Paul Gauguin opened at the Galerie Ambroise Vollard. The exhibition was a limited success, although Edgar Degas purchased one painting. Nonetheless, it would play a fundamental role in the emergence of the Gauguin legend and his decisive influence on the avant-garde artists who followed him.

The last privately owned masterpiece from the cycle
Whilst Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, Paul Gauguin’s legacy, was the centrepiece of this set of paintings, Te Bourao II takes up the main subjects depicted in that piece and signs off the cycle devised by the artist. The stream, the blooming flower, the horseman riding into the distance and that enigmatic nature evoke great solitude and symbolise the passing of time during a period of doubt for the artist.

After it was shown at the Galerie Ambroise Vollard in 1898, Te Bourao II remained in the Vollard family until it was purchased by the current owner. Today, Te Bourao II is the last masterpiece from this major cycle to still be in private ownership.

The eight others hang in the greatest museums around the world. Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? can be viewed at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Te pape nave nave (Delicious Water) hangs in the National Gallery in Washington, Baigneuses à Tahiti is at Birmingham’s Barber Institute, Femme tahitienne is at the Ordrupgaard Museum of Copenhagen, Vairumati is held by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the three works Rave te hiti aamu, La récolte and Tarari maruru (Landscape with Two Goats) have pride of place at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

Exhibited in the world’s greatest museums and now at auction for the first time ever
Although it has been privately owned since 1898, Te Bourao II has been exhibited throughout its existence. Following the Vollard exhibition in 1898, it was shown at the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge (1936), the Baltimore Museum of Art (1936) and the Grand Palais (2003-2004) and Musée d’Orsay in Paris (2007). It was even the object of a long-term loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where it was displayed for ten years from 2007 to 2017..

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