Lovers of impressionist and modern art have an absolute treat awaiting them at Sotheby’s Art Impressionniste et Moderne auction in Paris on March 29 – and a very unusual one at that. Le Jardin de Pissarro, Quai du Pothuis à Pontoise, an early masterpiece by Paul Gauguin, is coming up for sale – a painting that not only highlights his relationship with Pissarro, but also has two self-portraits on the back of the canvas, heightening its value (estimated at €600,000-€900,000).
“While it is always an event to see major works by the great pioneers at the turn of the 20th century emerge on the market, it is particularly moving to be able to unveil one of Gauguin’s masterpieces that is so emblematic of his work, and is a testament to the friendship between these two great figures of modern art,” says Aurélie Vandevoorde, head of Sotheby’s impressionist and modern art department.
Indeed, the landscape, dating from 1881, is intriguing for a number of reasons. Work from this period of Gauguin’s life rarely comes to market, and this particular piece has been in the same family since the 1920s and has hardly ever been seen in public. There is the matter of the images on the reverse of the canvas, which, according to the catalogue raisonné, are the first known self-portraits by the artist – and are from some years before his more famous ones. And then there is the subject matter itself. Pissarro was Gauguin’s teacher and helped to launch his career; the relationship between the two men was extremely close, and the figure under an umbrella in the foreground is almost certainly Pissarro himself.
Gauguin visited his mentor frequently between 1879 and 1881, and the two artists drew each other. “From this master, Gauguin learnt how to choose which colours to put on to canvas. What is more, Pissarro taught him independence and freed him from all control except his own,” the art theorist Victor Segalen wrote in Hommage à Gauguin, l’insurgé des Marquises.
There is no shortage of masterworks in the sale, which caters to a wide variety of tastes. Included elsewhere are a somewhat starkly modernist image by Giorgio de Chirico, Il Vaticinatore (1944), estimated at €250,000-€350,000; a typically surreal scene by René Magritte, La Salle d’Armes (1925-26), which is estimated at €700,000-€1m; and a nude by Kees Van Dongen, Nu Debout sur Fond Vert et Rose (c.1935), estimated at €300,000-€400,000.