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Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Bouquet de fleurs

1897
Huile sur toile 73 × 93 cm
Signé et daté en bas à droite : "P. Gauguin 97".
inv. 5333
Don Nelly Sergeant-Duhem (1985)
Gauguin went back to Tahiti in 1895. He never returned to France. Despite the illness, poverty, and moral distress of these last years, it was during this sojourn that the artist painted his most important compositions, including his masterpiece Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts). The subject of the work at the Musée Marmottan Monet—a still life—is therefore all the more surprising in that Gauguin, pre-eminently a painter of figures, rarely painted bouquets of flowers. In a letter to Ambroise Vollard, who asked him to produce this kind of piece, no doubt because it was easier to sell, the artist expressed his difficulties: “I am not a painter of nature—today even less than before. With me, everything happens in my wild imagination” (Gauguin, 1949). With this table with a cloth and laden with flowers and fruits, he was returning to a traditional motif while paying homage to some of the painters he admired (Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, and Odilon Redon). But this was as far as this return to his roots went, for Gauguin, who was a primitivist at heart, also endowed his canvas with an ambiguous and hermetic message, expressed by the little dog in the shadow of the flowers on the right side of the composition. He also evokes his adoptive country by including exotic fruit on the left, chosen for their decorative forms and flaming colors.