A worn-looking front cover of a manuscript book. The words 'AVANT et après' are seen at the top, and '1903' at the bottom, with 'P Gauguin' in the centre. The text is surrounded by drawings and illustrations, including three masks and details of columns and crests, dotted around the page.
Front cover, pen and black ink. Detail from the manuscript Avant et après by Paul Gauguin. © The Courtauld.

Avant et après (Before and after) 

Paul Gauguin

Gauguin was a prolific writer whose written output is intimately entwined with his art. Avant et après (Before and after), his final manuscript, was completed on the island of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas during the last months of his life. The manuscript is interspersed with numerous pen and ink drawings, as well as many monotypes, depicting the landscapes and people of the Marquesas.  

In the 213 handwritten pages of this part-memoir, part-manifesto, Gauguin muses on his own art, records anecdotes of his friendships and conflicts with writers and other artists, in particular with Vincent van Gogh. Gauguin set down blistering tirades against the French colonial and church authorities in Polynesia, yet the text is also peppered with examples of his own racism and misogyny.

An open book resting on a stand. Handwritten text by Paul Gauguin is on the left hand page, and the right page has handwritten text and two drawings interspersing the text.
'Le petit mignon' and his dogs in Cythera; two heads (a self-portrait?) in a café; text and drawings in pen and black ink. Detail from the manuscript Avant et après by Paul Gauguin. © The Courtauld.

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Two men sit across from each other at a table covered with a brown tablecloth, playing cards. Both men wear overcoats and hats, and the man on the left smokes a pipe. They sit inside a wooden building. i Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) The Card Players, around 1892-96, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)