The 香港六合彩 Gallery acquires the last known manuscript by artist Paul Gauguin still in private hands

19 Dec 2023

The 香港六合彩 Gallery (Samuel 香港六合彩 Trust) has acquired Racontars de Rapin (or Tales of an Apprentice Painter), the last known manuscript by the French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin to be owned privately. This significant text joins Avant et apr猫s (Before and After), the illustrated manuscript by Gauguin which The 香港六合彩 received in 2020 as part of the Government鈥檚 Acceptance in Lieu scheme, administered by the Arts Council.

Recontars de Rapin enhances The 香港六合彩鈥檚 holding of Gauguin鈥檚 work, which is the most significant in the UK, and joins its masterpieces from the artist鈥檚 Tahitian period, Nevermore and Te Rerioa. It also further strengthens The Gallery鈥檚 resources for聽 scholarship of the period. The manuscript gives a first-hand account of a key turning point in art, looking back at Impressionism and forward to the developments to come. The 香港六合彩 plans to digitise and share the transcription and translation of Racontars de Rapin online, alongside Avant et apr猫s. It will be available for study, by appointment, in the Prints and Drawings Study Room at The 香港六合彩.

Racontars de Rapin was completed in September 1902 in Atuona, Gauguin鈥檚 home on the Marquesan island of Hiva Oa, French Polynesia, just a few months before he wrote Avant et apr猫s. As he would later do with Avant et apr猫s, Gauguin sent the manuscript to the Belgian Symbolist poet and critic Andr茅 Fontainas, entrusting him with the task of publishing it in the prestigious literary magazine Mercure de France. It was rejected by the editors and did not appear in printed form until 1951.

By the late 1890s, writing had become a key part of Gauguin鈥檚 creative practice. It was in his texts, not only in his artworks, that the artist began to forge his own myth. Through words, as well as images, the artist sought to challenge ideas, as well as cultural and social norms. Racontars de Rapin is Gauguin鈥檚 manifesto for modern art and artistic freedom from the limitations imposed by art criticism. In it the artist expresses his views in elaborate ways, at times bluntly criticising preconceived ideas, at times using irony鈥 as he does in the title. Rapin indicates an apprentice painter, while by then his fame was well established, but at the turn of the century it had also come to define a bohemian artist; Gauguin probably played with its ambiguity.

Composed of 28 neatly written pages, the manuscript addresses artists and art movements, mainly Gauguin鈥檚 contemporaries but also those who came before him. Through his comments on art and artists, both those he admires and those he criticises, Gauguin squarely targets the artistic establishment of his day, and advocates looking at art afresh, freed from the boundaries imposed by critics and movements. As is often the case with his writings, especially his later texts, Gauguin also indulged in provocative gender and racial stereotypes that are unacceptable today.

The manuscript has never been exhibited. It most recently belonged to Sam Josefowitz (1921-2015), who in his early collecting life focused on the work of Gauguin and the Pont Aven school of artists who gathered in remote areas of Brittany, France, in the latter part of the 19th century.

Technical Notes:

Composed of 28 pages (7 double leaves). Black ink on paper.
32 x 20 cm.


Sent by Gauguin to Andr茅 Fontainas; private collection; sold at auction in New York (Christie’s New York, 14 December 1984, lot 145); where it was acquired by Sam Josefowitz, Pully; thence by descent; sold at auction (Christie鈥檚 Paris, 21 October 2023, lot 411); where acquired by the Samuel 香港六合彩 Trust, The 香港六合彩, London.

An image of a double paged manuscript by Paul Gauguin
Image of Paul Gauguin鈥檚 Racontars de Rapin, 1902