The hunt for fake Gauguins has only just begun. After a good catch in January, Fabrice Fourmanoir, passionate collector, has just come across two exceptional prey: L’Invocation and Women with a white horse, exhibited respectively at the National Gallery in Washington and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The paintings are supposed to have been made by the French master in 1903 in the Marquesas Islands, a few months before the artist’s death, which Fabrice Fourmanoir questions.
According to his words reported in the Washington Post , the paintings would have been ordered and sold by Gauguin’s art dealer, Ambroise Vollard, in the 1900s. The Parisian would thus have benefited from a sudden demand for the painter’s work.
His doubts are taken seriously by American museums, because the collector, without institutional baggage, has experience in tracking down false Gauguins. In January, the amateur sleuth, revealed that the sculpture The Marquesan Idol from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles was a fake. The museum had bought it for over $ 3 million and eventually had to downgrade it. A first for a painting by such an important painter.
Clues in the works
To back up his recent assertions, the Gauguin enthusiast details inconsistencies in the paintings. In the Washington Post, he questions in particular the cross overlooking the village of the Marquesas Islands in the background of L’Invocation, while the painter was not on very good terms with the Catholic bishop of the area. He also believes that the naked woman, in the foreground, is «disgracieuse» and “vulgar” and that Gauguin would not have represented her with his pubic hair.
In 1977, an art critic of the Washington Post, Paul Richard, had also expressed doubts about this canvas, lending him “Curious flaws” : “His brush is clumsy, his colors muddy, his young South Sea girls, crudely drawn”, he wrote. “And L’Invocation was by another painter, its authenticity could be called into question, because it seems a curious pastiche of images derived from the first works of Gauguin. “
In Women with a white horse, it is the vegetation that poses a problem for Fabrice Fourmanoir. It would be characteristic of Tahiti, more than of the Marquesas according to the self-proclaimed expert who lived in Polynesia. His passionate eye also notes the extreme lightness of the post-Impressionist painter’s signature.
These observations are questionable, but which are not overlooked by museums. Women with a white horse was bequeathed to that of Boston in 1948 and L’Invocation was donated to the National Gallery in 1976. But their origins can hardly be proven.
“We take attribution and provenance very seriously and have carefully considered L’Invocation, by discussing with academics and including it in research projects, says Anabeth Guthrie, spokesperson for the National Gallery at Washington Post. Gauguin’s latest work presents special challenges – he was often ill and lived in the Marquesas – and there is little reliable documentation of his production there.», She admits before adding that the two museums were discussing new scientific analyzes of the works in question.
Perhaps Fabrice Fourmanoir will have new downgrades to his list of fraud hunter. In addition to these two charges, the collector claims that all of Gauguin’s works made in 1903 (i.e. 13 canvases exhibited in museums around the world) are fakes. According to him, that year the painter was not in a position to make masterpieces because of eye problems and bodily injuries. The hunt for false Gauguins is well and truly launched.