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Monday, July 4, 2011

Did I Buy an Original Gauguin at the Thrift Shop ?

As an habitual thrift shop customer I can never pass one without entering and having a look. The other day I went into a shop I frequent fairly regularly and it happened that a delivery of new/old things had just come in. I looked around and a painting caught my eye. At first I thought it was a print of a Gauguin but quickly realised it was an oil painting. As an admirer of Gauguin's work I have seen and studied more than a few both in original and in reproduction. This particular image I had never seen before and I thought perhaps a talented admirer of Gauguin had copied a detail from one of his works or had produced a more than fair semblance or pastiche based on their study of his work. I looked for a signature but couldn't find one.

The colour range seems to be fairly close to the colour range of Gauguin's painting and the brushwork too seems (with some reservations) close to the manner in which Gauguin applied paint. The psychological relationship of the figures is pure Gauguin with no connection to the viewer or each other.Each is wholly engrossed with their own occupation and the drawing is economical while perfectly descriptive in Gauguin's manner.

The aspects that bother me about it are the brushwork, some of the colour values and lack of finish. Some of the colour values are too weak or strong to give an overall unity. The darks of the background and palm shadows are too strong for the values of the foreground. Similarly the brushwork in some areas of the painting is confused and "muddy" or otherwise (as in the foreground) too broad. However all these points could be corrected with more work. There is an area in the foreground bushes that started light and was subsequently painted over in purple/grays. The dog appearing from the bushes in the foreground is also perhaps not realized with the kind of finish one would expect in a Gaugin but again more work would easily correct this.

A too oily application is also apparent with the oil running out of the paint and this has darkened with age giving an unaesthetic look to some of the surfaces.
Perhaps the strongest point mitigating against the painting being a genuine Gauguin is the support. This is a Grumbacher canvas board perhaps from the 1970's. However the grain of the canvas is quite coarse and this could be canvas or sacking (that Gauguin is known to have used) applied later to a canvas board.

Is  it Gauguin on a bad day ? Or an unfinished painting by Gauguin ? Or pastiche by a talented admirer ?

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