(b. 1848, Paris, d. 1903, Atuona, Hiva Oa, French Polynesia)

Bonjour, Monsieur Gauguin

Oil on canvas, 113 x 92 cm
Národní Galerie, Prague

This work was produced in response to the painting by Courbet, the Bonjour Monsieur Courbet, that Gauguin and van Gogh had seen together in the Musée Fabre in Montpellier in December 1888. Gauguin's version, painted several months later, bears little overt resemblance to the original.

In Courbet's version, the artist depicted himself in the guise of a wandering Jew who meets his patron Bruyas, accompanied by his manservant on the road to Montpellier. Bruyas doffs his hat to the artist, and the servant stands with head respectfully lowered. In depicting himself thus, Courbet has referred to the changing status of the artist in the nineteenth century and has represented himself in a romantic role, as an essentially misunderstood, creative genius, working outside the norms of bourgeois society. It was to this aspect that Gauguin responded in this version, and the flavour of the original has been retained, although the composition and figures are markedly different. From his earliest self-portraits Gauguin had cast himself in the role of the artistic martyr and in 1889 this was to reach a climax in works like the Green Christ and Christ in the Garden of Olives.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.