• HELVOIRT, Netherlands
  • /
  • February 06, 2010

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Deux Femmes by Paul Gauguin, 1902, oil on canvas, 74 x 64.5 cm

 One of Paul Gauguin’s last major works is to be offered for sale by the leading international art dealer Dickinson for a price in the region of €18 million (US$26 million) at TEFAF Maastricht. Gauguin created this painting during a final burst of creativity following his retreat to a remote Pacific island as far away from civilisation as possible. The 23rd edition of the world’s most influential art and antiques fair will take place at the MECC (Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre) in the southern Netherlands from 12-21 March 2010.

The rare late Tahitian Gauguin will be one of the highlights of The European Fine Art Fair reinforcing its reputation for offering the very best works of art for sale. The picture was painted in 1902, a year before Gauguin’s death, while he was living on Hiva Oa in the remote Marquesas Islands 740 miles from Tahiti.  Unhappy with what he saw as the increasingly European colonial atmosphere on the main Tahitian islands, he landed at Atuona, the capital of Hiva Oa, in September 1901.


Gauguin praised the Marquesas in a letter to his friend Daniel de Monfried. ‘I assure you from the point of view of painting it’s admirable,’ he told him. ‘Poetry emerges here of its own accord, and it can be evoked simply by allowing oneself to dream while painting. I ask for just two years of good health and not too many money worries, which now have excessive hold over my nervous temperament, in order to reach a certain maturity in my art.’

Unfortunately his wish for good health was not to be granted. His illness was probably partially responsible for the increasingly dream-like nature of his art and his late paintings from the Marquesas, such as Deux Femmes, are more self-referential. They are a composite of motifs drawn from Western art, Gauguin’s collection of photographs and memories and symbols sourced from his own life and work.

The symbolism of Deux Femmes is obscure, and rests on an arcane vocabulary developed by Gauguin. However the mysterious nature of the painting, accentuated by the lush, intoxicating richness of the colours, brilliantly portrays the exotic primitivism at the root of Gauguin’s fascination with the inhabitants of the Pacific islands. The two female figures relate to the Biblical character of Eve, a key figure in Gauguin’s personal mythology, while the fox sitting outside the house has a long history in his oeuvre as a symbol of perversity.  In the last months of 1902 and early 1903 Gauguin’s health declined and on the island of Hiva Oa on 8 May 1902 he died.

Deux Femmes is first recorded in the collection of Marie Paul Voûte (1882-1955), a member of a family of successful Dutch merchants. It is thought to have been the first Tahitian Gauguin to enter a Dutch collection and Voute is known to have also owned two paintings by Van Gogh.

Deux Femmes is being offered for sale through Dickinson by a leading British private collector who bought it at auction four years ago. James Roundell, a director of Dickinson, said: ‘The owner has decided to focus on pictures from later in the 20th century and is rationalizing his collection. Although the owner is still enthusiastic about the picture, the Gauguin does not fit in with the new focus and is the odd one out in the collection.’ Dickinson, based in London and New York, is a leading international dealer in Old Master and Impressionist paintings and Modern and Contemporary Art.

TEFAF Maastricht will have a record number of 263 exhibitors from 17 countries when it opens at the MECC (Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre) in the southern Netherlands from 12-21 March 2010. Exhibitors will show some 30,000 works of art and antiques, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, furniture, classical antiquities, illuminated manuscripts, jewellery, textiles, porcelain, glass, silver, design and other works of art all of which will be rigorously vetted by teams of experts. It will expand by introducing TEFAF on Paper, a new section devoted entirely to works on paper. The latest in a series of groundbreaking reports specially prepared for TEFAF will examine how the international art market has fared during the economic recession.

Gauguin exhibition - Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

During TEFAF there will be an exhibition on Gauguin’s zincographs at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. In 1889, during the Paris World’s Fair, Gauguin exhibited a series of prints he had made at the instigation of Theo van Gogh, which was to become known as the Volpini Suite. The exhibition is the first to examine in depth this series of lithographs, which played a crucial role in Gauguin’s development into a modern artist. A total of 60 works of art will be shown.


Art, more than an asset

AXA Art's partnership with TEFAF provides an important platform to profile the company's expertise to the art collecting community and to bring attention to subjects of collection management, such as the fragility of art objects and important strategies to maintain a collection in optimum condition.


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