[Gauguin (Paul)] Segalen (Victor)

Lot 57
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Estimation :
5000 - 8000 EUR
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Result : 13 000EUR
[Gauguin (Paul)] Segalen (Victor)
Autograph letter signed to "Mon cher grand Saint-Pol" (the poet Saint-Pol-Roux). Papeete, December 14, 1903, 12 in-8° pages with drawing, on 3 in-4° oblong sheets mounted on tabs. Jansenist midnight-blue chagrin binding, smooth spine, slipcase (Ateliers Laurenchet). Famous signed autograph letter recounting Victor Segalen's illuminating discovery in the Marquesas of the "relics" of Paul Gauguin, who had died a few months earlier, as well as the places where he lived and the people who had known him in the Marquesas. Everything could be quoted in this magnificent letter, which explains how Gauguin's possessions were dispersed after his death. "I shuddered with joy; so many good things are happening, wanting to be said, that I'm getting unstuck, decohering to my heart's content. Gauguin? Alas! I arrived too late in the Marquesas, where he had been living for three years, & not in Tahiti, to assist him as I would have done with the fervor of a disciple, with the fanaticism of a little pupil in love with the one who leads him. For I can tell you: I had seen nothing of Polynesia, smelled nothing, tasted nothing until I had - as I do every day - leafed through the master's albums. At last, I was able to measure the difference between Nature and a work of Art. With the Tahitian Note as my linchpin, I captured the creative transformation by which the artist transforms raw, perishable, contingent matter into perennial beauty. Thank you, Gauguin! Gauguin died on May 8 in Hiva-Oa. The 'Durance' was there two months later, just in time to save the poor, admirable relics [...]. It was brought back to Tahiti & auctioned [...]. Large merchants obtained carved wood that they will sell at a high price in Paris [...]. Cochin, the son of a deputy who once knew Gauguin in Paris, has a very pretty painting: trois tahitiennes [...]. I have all the rest. I detail it for you with the pride of a child... A very painful portrait of Gauguin [...]. Second portrait, more recent, oblique [...]. A large canvas on a cobalt ground [with] semi-nude figures [...]. Two Breton studies [...]. And a very naive Breton nativity [...]. Plus an album of sketches [...]. Ma Maison tahitienne... is illustrated with works that would be located in the Salle Caillebotte...". Segalen plans articles in Le Mercure de France, a work for which he proposes the title: "'L'Immémorial Émigrant' vous plaît-il le titre? (first suggestion of a title that will become Les Immémoriaux) [...] roman véridique du Maori vagabond à travers l'immense océan" [...]. Joie & hommages aux nouveaux châtelains du Boultous" (the manor Saint-Pol Roux had built). He penciled a mounted bowl described as follows: "I dare not collect from you, except to mount them in a fruit bowl on a pewter base contoured in accordance with Tahitian plant forms, large flat pearly shells with golden reflections [...]. I am sending you a hasty copy of notes taken in the Marquesas Islands in Gauguin's familiar panoramas...". Victor Segalen (1878-1919), a naval medical officer, had written his thesis on certain psychological illnesses in contemporary literature, in particular the character of des Esseintes in the works of Huysmans. He had also been in contact with writers such as Saint-Pol-Roux (1861-1940), the recipient of this letter, a Symbolist poet who was brought out of oblivion in the 1920s by the Surrealists. Saint-Pol-Roux had known Gauguin since the 1890s, and having learned of his death, had written on October 15, 1903 to Segalen, whom he knew to be in Polynesia, as he was concerned about the painter's last relics. Most probably on the basis of Segalen's present reply, it was Saint-Pol-Roux who suggested that Segalen write his famous article Gauguin dans son dernier décor, which appeared in Le Mercure de France in 1904. It was Saint-Pol-Roux who had already introduced him to Remy de Gourmont in 1901, for the publication in April 1902 of his first article in Le Mercure de France (Les Synesthésies et l'école symboliste). It was Remy de Gourmont who had advised Segalen to meet Gauguin during his expedition to Polynesia on the aviso La Durance. After arriving in Tahiti in January 1903, he only disembarked in the Marquesas on August 3, after Gauguin's death on May 8. Despite an initial rapid sale of Gauguin's possessions in Hiva-Oa on July 20, prior to his arrival, he was able to acquire numerous works and documents at the second sale on September 2 in Papeete. He also brought back other "relics", as he called them, notably the illustrated manuscript of Noa Noa, which were not included in the sales. Provenance: Saint-Pol-Roux; Merlin collection.
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