Paul Gauguin 1848-1903
N03167 Tahitiens (Tahitians) c.1891
Oil, crayon and charcoal on paper mounted on millboard, 33 5/8 x 40 1/8 (85.5 x 102) (irregular)
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1917
Prov: With Galerie Druet, Paris; Roger Fry, London, 1910 or 1911; CAS 1911
Exh: Manet and the Post-Impressionists, Grafton Galleries, London, November 1910-January 1911 (128); Works by Post-Impressionist Painters, United Arts Club, Dublin, January-February 1911 (6), lent by Roger Fry; Modern Art including Works by the Post-Impressionists, Liberty Buildings, Liverpool, March-April 1911 (42); Loan Exhibition of Works organised by the CAS, Manchester City Art Gallery, December 1911-January 1912 (9), lent by the CAS; The CAS: First Public Exhibition in London, Goupil Gallery, London, April 1913 (69); The CAS: Exhibition of Purchases and Gifts, 53 Grosvenor Street, London, June 1914 (38); Special Exhibition of Modern Paintings in Oil and Water Colours lent by the CAS, Belfast Art Gallery, November 1914 (51); Silver Jubilee Exhibition of some of the Works acquired by the CAS, Tate Gallery, July-August 1935 (44); Acquisitions of the CAS, Tate Gallery, September-October 1946 (15); 40,000 Years of Modern Art, ICA, Academy Hall, London, December 1948-January 1949 (135); Paul Gauguin: Paintings, Engravings and Sculpture, Tate Gallery, September-October 1955 (not in catalogue); CAS: The First Fifty Years 1910-60, Tate Gallery, April-May 1960 (154, repr.)
Lit: Douglas Cooper, The Courtauld Collection (London 1954), pp.68, 73; Douglas Cooper, 'Catalogue of the Courtauld Collection' in Burlington Magazine, XCVI, 1954, p.120; Georges Wildenstein, Gauguin (Paris 1964), No.516, Vol.1, p.211 repr. as 'Tahitiennes au Repos' 1894
Repr: Art Décoratif, XXV, 1911, p.182 as 'Tahitiens (Esquisse)'; Arsène Alexandre, Paul Gauguin, sa Vie et le Sens de son Oeuvre (Paris 1930), p.129 as 'Etude à la Martinique'
This picture is hard to date exactly owing to its unfinished state and is also exceptional in being done in oil on paper, but most probably it was made about 1891 during Gauguin's first stay in Tahiti. Gauguin began his work in Tahiti by making a number of studies in order to come to terms with his new subject-matter. On 11 March 1892 he wrote to Daniel de Monfreid: 'I work more and more but so far only studies or rather documents ... If they aren't of use to me later they will be useful to others.' It can be compared, for instance, with 'Two Women on a Beach' (Musée du Louvre), 'Te Faaturuma' (Worcester Art Museum, USA) and 'Road in Tahiti' (Toledo Museum of Art), all of which are dated 1891. Wildenstein dates it 1894, that is to say during Gauguin's stay in France between his two visits to Tahiti, because of its analogies with 'Arearea No Varua Ino' (Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen) and particularly with 'The Siesta' (Mrs Ira Haupt collection, New York), which depicts four Tahitian women squatting or reclining on the floor of a similar hut. However 'The Siesta' is undated, and seems much more likely to have been painted earlier than 1894, while he was still in Tahiti.
Miss Marjorie Strachey intended to purchase this picture (which was priced £30) at the 1910 exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists and put her name down for it. Roger Fry, however, persuaded her that it was her duty to allow this work to go to the nation through the Contemporary Art Society, and she accordingly stood down in favour of the Society (Mrs Dorothy Bussy in letter of 17 March 1954).
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.269-70, reproduced p.269