Oil on canvas
45.5 x 61.3 cm
Gift of Yad Hanadiv, Jerusalem, from the collection of Miriam Alexandrine de Rothschild, daughter of the first Baron Edmond de Rothschild
Accession number: B66.1041
In 1899, Gauguin's mistress, Pahura, gave birth to a son, who gave the artist a new lease on life. After months of inaction due to poverty and ill health, Gauguin began to paint again, rapidly using up the canvas he possessed, while writing satirical articles and creating woodcuts. Upon receiving more canvas from France, he set to work with renewed vigor.
Gauguin probably painted this still life on rough burlap in August when he was out of canvas. A teapot and pitcher visually separate an assortment of fruit set in a dish from those on a tablecloth that is draped over a chest. The plants on the pareo hung behind them and the flowers on the tablecloth blend into their backgrounds, while the warm colors of the fruit and the chest contrast with the cool colors of the rest of the painting. The main influence is from Cézanne's Still Life with Compotier of 1877–1879, in which comparable objects and fruit are set on a table in front of a similar background.
Yet Gauguin’s painting is not as simple as it seems. This particular Cézanne belonged to Gauguin, who had vowed not to sell it unless he was in dire straits. This occurred in 1898, and throughout 1899 he waited in vain to receive the money from the sale. His still life thus pays homage to that Cézanne, now irretrievably lost to him. On the other hand, Gauguin felt that both friends and critics extolled Cézanne while forgetting his own innovations. In July 1899, he sarcastically quoted them: "I originated in Cézanne, in Van Gogh, in Bernard...: what an adroit imitator I am."4 Thus, while rendering homage to Cézanne, Gauguin was competing with him, emphasizing elements that were distinctly his own.
Some of these elements reflect Gauguin's situation: he, Pahura, and their son form a family of three; they have fruit and flowers, but he is insecure and pessimistic at this time due to his lack of money and ill health.