The Courtauld receives Getty Foundation grant to investigate last major manuscript by Paul Gauguin

16 Jun 2022

The Courtauld Gallery is delighted to be the recipient of a Getty Foundation grant as part of its Paper Project initiative, which supports exhibitions, publications, digital projects, and workshops that foster curatorial innovation in the arts.

Created in 2018, The Paper Project funds a variety of projects by ambitious curators across the world who study prints and drawings, simultaneously boosting their professional development and bringing new discoveries about works on paper to light.

This year, grants totalling nearly $1.3 million have been awarded to 15 Art institutions worldwide and will bring visibility to understudied prints and drawings collections for present-day museum audiences.

The Courtauld Gallery has received a grant for a workshop that will investigate Avant et après (Before and After), Paul Gauguin’s last major manuscript, which was offered to The Courtauld in 2020 as part of the Government’s Acceptance in Lieu scheme administered by the Arts Council. The volume has been digitised, transcribed and translated and can be viewed on The Courtauld’s website.

Avant et après is a unique and richly illustrated text and is one of the most significant artist manuscripts ever to enter a UK public collection. Part-memoir and part-manifesto, the 213-page manuscript reveals important insights into Gauguin’s life, relationships and thoughts, and includes numerous drawings and prints by the artist.

It was written in 1903, the year of the artist’s death, at his home on the Marquesas island of Hiva Ova, French Polynesia. In addition to anecdotes about his friendships and opinions on the work of leading contemporary artists such as Degas, Pissarro, Signac and Cézanne, one of the key sections reflects on the brief yet tumultuous period that Gauguin stayed with Vincent van Gogh in Arles.

The manuscript is also studded with examples of Gauguin’s opinions on literary figures and caustic comments on those art critics who did not understand (or appreciate) the modernity of his art. Gauguin’s hatred of hypocrisy and bourgeois morality is a constant theme. The text also includes excoriating attacks on the French colonial and church authorities in Polynesia, alongside examples of his own exoticist racial stereotyping.

Avant et après is an important addition to what is already the most significant collection of works by Gauguin in the UK – joining amongst other works the masterpieces from his Tahitian period, Nevermore and Te Rerioa – and further strengthens The Courtauld’s resources for Gauguin scholarship.

Displayed for the first time at The Courtauld from November 2021 – June 2022, Avant et après remains unstudied by scholars in its original form. The workshop, led by Dr Ketty Gottardo, Martin Halusa Curator of Drawings at The Courtauld, aims to approach and examine the manuscript from various perspectives and post-colonial viewpoints. Grant support will convene Gauguin scholars, paper conservators, and prints and drawings specialists to better understand the materials, structure, and context of the manuscript as The Courtauld determines its final presentation to the public.

Discover Avant et après

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