La Maison du Pendu

La Maison du Pendu, c.1889-90 Gouache and watercolour on card laid down on board 27 x 34.7 cm
Emile Schuffenecker, Paris Galerie Matthiesen, Berlin Private Collection, Cologne, thence by descent VKS Art, purchased at Sotheby’s London, 6 February 2013
G. Wildenstein, Gauguin, 1965, vol.1, no 395 (note)

This work will be included in the forthcoming supplement to the Gauguin Catalogue critique being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute.

In 1889-90, Paul Gauguin spent time in Le Pouldu, an idyllic hamlet on the Atlantic coast of Brittany, 47 kilometres east of Pont-Aven, which had become a favourite hideout for several artists of the Pont-Aven School. Le Pouldu`s isolation, dramatic windswept coastline and lush pastures attracted Gauguin, who found the resort town of Pont-Aven had become too modern and crowded. Gauguin stayed at La Buvette de la Plage, a small local inn owned by Marie Henry, right on the beach of Le Pouldu, only a stone`s throw away from the lonely house perched on a cliff above the ocean, depicted  in this gouache. Along with his friend and fellow artist, the Dutchman Mayer de Haan, Gauguin decorated the inn’s dining room with paintings and sculptures. (Gauguin’s wood carving of Mayer de Haan, intended for the mantle in the inn’s dining room, is now in the possession of the National Gallery of Canada.) Both men remained in Le Pouldu for the winter. After a short interlude in Paris in the spring of 1890, Gauguin returned to the village in the summer and stayed until November, now accompanied by fellow artists Paul Sérusier and Charles Filiger. The artists would explore the area together and capture varied facets of the Breton landscape, its isolated peasant houses, rolling farmland, craggy granite cliffs and sandy beaches as well as the rustic life of the local people. The artists mostly worked outdoors, sketching and making notes and then later paint their selected motives in oil from memory at the inn. [1]

A postcard dated from around 1900, entitled Le Pouldu  – La Pointe Pan’Mane aux Grands Sables, now the Museum of Pont-Aven, identifies the house in the present picture as the one standing on a rocky point between the beaches of Grands Sables and Port-Guerrec.  The name Pendu means “Black Head” in the local Breton dialect, referring to the outcrop of black granite rocks, typical for the region.[2] The house still exists today and is a designated heritage building. It was erected in 1875 by Henri Louis Froidevaux, a notary from nearby Quimperlé, who used it as a summer retreat. The quaint cottage apparently fascinated Gauguin, as it appears several times in his oeuvre. Aside from this gouache it is also subject of an oil painting, currently in a Canadian private collection, and a number of other of his works (W 344, W364, W396).

Paul Gauguin La Maison Du Pan-Du, 1890 Oil on canvas 50.3 x 61.1 cm Private Collection, Canada

Fellow artist Paul Sérusier also featured the house in his work, as did Charles Filiger [3], and Armand Seguin[4].

Paul Sérusier, Plage au Pouldu, 1890, Guicheteau I, 21

Charles Filiger, La Maison du Pendu, 1890, private collection

Charles Filiger, Portrait of E. Bernard, 1893

Armand Seguin, La Maison du Pen-du, etching, 1893, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Gauguin enjoyed the remoteness of Le Pouldu and the simplicity of its people, but eventually came to the conclusion, that for the sake of his artistic development, he had to leave France and civilized Western society behind:

My mind is made up, and since I’ve been in Brittany I’ve altered my decision somewhat. Even Madagascar is too near to the civilized world; I shall go to Tahiti and I hope to end my days there…My art… is only a seedling so far, and out there I hope to cultivate it for my own pleasure in its primitive and savage state.”[5]

Paul Gauguin finally left Le Pouldu and La Buvette de la Plage in November 1890, without paying his bill to the young inn-keeper Marie Henry, who was expecting de Haan`s child.

[1] Paul Gauguin’s Third visit to Brittany, June 1889 – November 1890, Bogomila Welsh-Ocharov, p.19, in: Gauguin’s Nirvana: painters at Le Pouldu 1889-90 / edited by Eric M. Zafran ; with essays by Stephen Kornhauser … [et al.], New Haven 2001

[2] L’Aventure de Pont-Aven et Gauguin, exhibition held at Musée de Luxembourg, Paris, Apr. 2-June 22, 2003 and Musée des Beaux-Arts, Quimper, July 12-Sept. 30, 2003, p.61

[3] L’Aventure de Pont-Aven et Gauguin, exhibition held at Musée de Luxembourg, Paris, Apr. 2-June 22, 2003 and Musée des Beaux-Arts, Quimper, July 12-Sept. 30, 2003, p.61

[4] Gauguin and his painter friends in Brittany- Pont-Aven and Le Pouldu,exhibition catalogue in Centro Saint-Benin, Museo archeologico regionale, Aosta, Italy, July 3-Nov. 7, 1993, p.

[5] quoted in Colta Ives, Gauguin in Brittany: Le Pould