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Lot #6009
Paul Gauguin Autograph Letter Signed Twice, Written Days Before His Death - “All these worries are killing me”

“It will be said all my life that I am condemned to fall, get up, fall again”—one of the last letters of Paul Gauguin

Estimate: $25000+

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“It will be said all my life that I am condemned to fall, get up, fall again”—one of the last letters of Paul Gauguin

Significant twice-signed ALS in French, one page, 8 x 10, April 1903. Letter to his friend George-Daniel de Monfreid, handwritten by Gauguin from his home on the Marquesas island of Hiva Oa in French Polynesia. Given the artist’s death on May 8, 1903, it’s likely that Gauguin was already dead by the time Monfreid received this letter. In full (translated): “My dear Daniel, I am sending you 3 paintings which you will receive – I am sending them directly to Mr Fayet so as not to have to be lugged around – probably after this letter. Will you tell Mr Fayet that this is about saving me. If the paintings do not suit him, let him take others from you or lend me 1500 F with all the guarantees he wants. – Here's why: I have just been the victim of a terrible trap.

After scandalous events in the Marquesas I wrote to the Administrator to ask him to carry out an investigation on this subject. I had not thought that the gendarmes are all in collusion, that the Administrator is from the governor's party etc…still the fact remains that the lieutenant requested the prosecution and that a bandit judge under the orders of the governor and the petty prosecutor that I had mishandled sentenced me, July 81 law on the press for a private letter, to 3 months in prison and a fine of 1000 F. I have to go on appeal to Tahiti.

Travel stay and especially lawyer fees!! how much will this cost me? This is my ruin and the complete destruction of my health. It will be said all my life that I am condemned to fall, get up, fall again, etc. All my old energy goes away every day. So do it as quickly as possible and tell Mr Fayet that I will be eternally grateful to him. Always yours from the heart.”

Gauguin writes more on the reverse and signs at the conclusion, “P. Gauguin.” In full: “Here is the letter, nothing from you yet – Vollard has not written to me for 3 letters and has not sent me any money. Currently he is my debtor of 1500 F plus a balance for the paintings that I sent him. As a result, I am in debt of 1400 F to the commercial company just when I still have to ask them for money to go to Papeete etc. I am afraid that the company will refuse me and then I will be terribly in trouble. If he died or went bankrupt I hope you would have been informed. All these worries are killing me.” In fine condition.

This letter from Paul Gauguin, written less than a month before his death, is addressed to friend and artist Georges-Daniel de Monfreid (1856-1929), who served as a representative of Gauguin in France during his stays in Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands. Monfreid and the referenced Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) were two of Gauguin’s primary benefactors in his later years.

The distance from Gauguin, then living in the Marquesas since 1901, made epistolary exchanges difficult, with some letters sometimes arriving several months late. At the time of writing, Gauguin was surrounded by hardship and desperate for money. He beseeches Monfreid to present three paintings to collector Gustave Fayet (1865-1925): “Will you tell Mr Fayet that this is about saving me.”

Gauguin’s despair is accentuated by his recent conviction: “I have just been the victim of a terrible trap.” At the beginning of 1903, Gauguin engaged in a campaign designed to expose the incompetence of the island's gendarmes, in particular Jean-Paul Claverie, for taking the side of the natives directly in a case involving the alleged drunkenness of a group of them. Claverie, however, escaped censure. At the beginning of February, Gauguin wrote to the administrator, François Picquenot, alleging corruption by one of Claverie's subordinates. Picquenot investigated the allegations but could not substantiate them. Claverie responded by filing a charge against Gauguin of libeling a gendarme. He was subsequently fined 500 francs and sentenced to three months' imprisonment by the local magistrate on March 27, 1903. He sought a retrial before the Court of Appeals in Papeete.

“All these worries are killing me,” concludes the artist, who was neither incarcerated nor retried. Gauguin died before the matter was settled on May 8, 1953, at the age of 54. Upon learning of Gauguin's death, Vollard immediately wrote to Monfreid on August 29th: ‘Very sad news. I have just been told of Gauguin's death. Have you heard anything similar? The news comes to me from Mr. Ary Leblond who got it from the Ministry of Colonies. This will only make me hasten to send you a copy of Gauguin’s account.’

Monfreid had already known; he had been officially notified of Gauguin’s passing days earlier on August 23rd, and in turn, he notified Mette Gauguin, the estranged wife of the deceased, who replied with a request: ‘I know that for years already you have been taking care of Paul's affairs and I would be very grateful to you, if for the love of him, who is the more, you want to continue.’ Monfried acquiesced, became Gauguin's executor, and continued to devote himself to the memory of his friend.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Art, Literature, and Classical Music
  • Dates: May 22, 2024 - June 20, 2024

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