[Gauguin (Paul)] Fontainas (André)

Lot 48
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4000 - 6000 EUR
[Gauguin (Paul)] Fontainas (André)
Autograph letter signed to Paul Gauguin, bound by Victor Segalen in his copy of André Fontainas' Histoire de la peinture française au XIXe siècle (1801-1900). Paris, 5 rue Franklin, May 13, 1899 (8 pages in-12°), with two annotations in his hand in brown ink at the bottom of page 5, and the words "à Paul Gauguin" added to the letter bound at the top. The letter is numbered 21 in red pencil, as part of the sale of Gauguin's property in Papeete after his death in 1903. Vintage binding. Blue printed paper bradel with brown patterns; red morocco title-piece underlined by two gilt fillets on the spine; covers and spine preserved. A magnificent and famous first letter to Gauguin from André Fontainas, full of frankness and sensitivity. Numbered 2578, this copy belonged to Victor Segalen, who had it bound and enriched with an autograph letter signed by Fontainas to Paul Gauguin, the very first in their correspondence. In this superb, long, previously unpublished reply to a letter written by Gauguin from Tahiti, Fontainas, who describes himself as a curious, sincere and sensitive writer, justifies some of the terms of his column in the Mercure de France of January 1899, notably with regard to Puvis de Chavannes and Gauguin's independence, to which he pays tribute... Finally, he thanks the painter for sending a portrait of Mallarmé, "a loyal and pure artist whose confidence my voice has aroused...". The letter is rather erased and corrected, showing Fontainas' concern to set out his point of view on art. Its interest is heightened by the fact that biographers have always considered Fontainas's letters to Gauguin to be lost. We can see that this one was saved by Victor Segalen when he acquired some of Gauguin's estate in Tahiti in 1903. "Ah, Monsieur Gauguin, what a misunderstanding there is between us, and how good it would be to chat for an hour together to clear it up forever. You've understood, since you've given me the enormous pleasure of stopping to think about what I said about you in the Mercure, and of writing to me about it, my aim, my object is simply to say, as sincerely as habits of upbringing, prejudices and often different if not contradictory tendencies allow, what a literary scholar, enamored of harmonious colors or of expression resulting from an arrangement of lines, feels before the works of today's artists. I don't have any rules or codes. Make no mistake, I'm expressing a personal sensation, always, and when I'm angry (justified or not, it doesn't matter to me, I've had it, in spite of myself, I say it, I say it), or when it seems to me that by some deletion, by some addition, the effect on me would have been more powerful, why would you want me, even if I'm wrong, not to confess it, since I've thus felt or thought, at the sight of a work? Reproach me, and you'll be right, reproach me - I've just reread the article which is the cause of this correspondence you've opened between us - for having sometimes, on this subject, insufficiently explained myself. You'd be right. It was never my intention to throw the example of Puvis de Chavannes at your head and crush the uncertainty (or what I haven't yet understood) of your research by confronting it with a mature, blossoming art that has long since come to fruition, no! I thought (wrongly, as your letter explains) that your compositions were based on an a priori abstract idea, which you sought to vivify through a plastic representation that seemed to me insufficient to convey it to another's brain, and I quoted P. de Ch. because, with another profession, etc., he seems to me to have often acted in this way successfully, thanks to a marvelous gift for transposing his thoughts into adequate images.
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