An original Paul Gauguin lithograph print.
Original lithograph printed in black ink on simili-Japan paper.
Signed on the stone below the image lower center Paul Gauguin, titled on the stone lower left.
A superb impression of the only state, from the second edition of approximately 50 impressions issued by Ambroise Vollard sometime after 1900 (apart from the first edition of 30 to 50 impressions printed by Edouard Ancourt on yellow paper). One of ten plates from the album taken from drawings done by the artist during a visit to Martinique in 1887, now known as the Volpini Suite.
Catalog: Guerin 9; Mongan/Kornfeld/Joachim 6B.
8 7/8 x 7 inches
Sheet Size: 14 1/2 x 13 inches
In January 1889 Gauguin was back in Paris after two months in Arles with Vincent van Gogh. He wrote to Vincent that he was creating the prints “with the aim of making myself better known.” Gauguin was also organizing an exhibition for summer 1889 to take advantage of the large crowds that would visit the Exposition Universelle in Paris. This world’s fair was designed to flaunt French cultural and industrial might, and its signature attraction was the 300-meter tower of Gustave Eiffel. Gauguin and his friends were not accepted into the official exhibition in the fair’s arts pavilion, so they appealed to Monsieur Volpini, who had opened a café within the fairgrounds. When the mirrors he had ordered to decorate the café failed to arrive, Volpini agreed to display their work.
Gauguin’s album of prints made their debut at that exhibition, and they have come to be known as the Volpini Suite. That occasion also marked the first time that paintings reflecting the progressive ideas of Gauguin and other artists of the Pont-Aven School were publicly displayed. His prints were listed at the end of the small catalogue as “viewable upon request.” This modest citation was the first reference to a body of work that now stands as one of the most important graphic projects of 19th-century France.
The technical achievement of the Volpinis is even more remarkable given that they were Gauguin’s first attempt at printmaking. The prints are zincographs, a variation of lithography that calls for drawing on zinc plates rather than heavy lithographic stones. The challenges of this medium clearly appealed to Gauguin, and he approached his plunge into printmaking with confidence, daring to work on the zinc surfaces that make it more difficult to keep an image intact. He appreciated the rough, grainy textures of zincographs and intensified the results by printing on brilliant canary yellow paper. Working with a brush or pen, Gauguin applied washes, called lavis or tusche, to add rich tonal variety. These works made him a key contributor to the printmaking revival of late 19th-century France, when artists, reacting to the proliferation of photo-mechanical reproductive prints, championed the fully original, limited-edition print.
Sometime between his trips to Tahiti, Gauguin gave the plates to Amédée Schuffenecker, who then sold them to Ambriose Vollard. Vollard’s second edition was issued later also as an album but without the earlier title page, printed on imitation Japan paper.