• gerard van weyenbergh

Exposing fake Gauguin paintings just began

An amateur collector, Fabrice Fourmanoir, believes that the National Gallery in Washington and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston exhibit paintings attributed to the painter by mistake or dishonesty.



The two paintings were said to have been made in the Marquesas Islands in 1903, the year of Gauguin's death, but it is not known how they arrived in Europe five years later.

The hunt for fake Gauguins has only just begun. After a nice catch in January, Fabrice Fourmanoir, passionate collector, has just come across two exceptional prey: The 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 comments reported in the Washington Post, the paintings were ordered and sold by Gauguin's art dealer, Ambroise Vollard, in the 1900s. The Parisian would have thus 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 detective revealed that the sculpture The Marquesan Idol at 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 support his recent assertions, the Gauguin enthusiast details the inconsistencies in the paintings. In the Washington Post, he questions in particular the cross overlooking the village of the Marquesas in the background of L'Invocation, while the painter was not on very good terms with the Catholic bishop of the area. He also considers that the naked woman, in the foreground, is "unsightly" and "vulgar" and that Gauguin would not have represented her with her pubic hair.

As early as 1977, an art critic for the Washington Post, Paul Richard, had also expressed doubts about this canvas, attributing to it "curious flaws": "His brush is clumsy, its colors muddy, its young daughters of the South Seas. , crudely drawn," he wrote. "If The Invocation were 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."


The white cross in the background of The Invocation is strangely reminiscent of the one depicted in Women with a White Horse. Used patterns that could be the work of non-inventive counterfeiters.

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 The Invocation was given to the National Gallery in 1976. But their origins can hardly be proven.

"We take issues of attribution and provenance very seriously and have carefully considered The Invocation, talking to academics and including it in research projects," said Anabeth Guthrie, spokesperson for the National Gallery to the Washington Post. Gauguin's latest work presents particular challenges - he was often ill and lived in the Marquesas Islands - and there are few reliable documents regarding his production there ," she admits before adding that the two museums were discussing new scientific analyzes of the works in question.

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 on.

Le Figaro "Culture"