'If you have time to waste, feel sorry for Mrs Gauguin' - artist's angry letter sells

This time, the letter in question was on sale at Christie's, as part of their Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts auction (June 23). It consists mainly of a furious diatribe against his wife.

Written in Tahiti on June 13 1896 to his art dealer and fellow painter Claude Èmile Schuffenecker, the six page long manuscript centres on Gauguin's wife, Danish woman, Mette-Sophie Gad.

One extract runs:

"An important point in your letter relates to Mrs. Gauguin....Well, I'm going to show you the woman you're defending.

"When we were married, she had for dowry only a few shifts and six tablecloths, and yet she was more demanding about money than a woman brought up in the lap of luxury. Quarrels rained down on our marriage over that horrible question.

"Later, when I succeeded in earning 35,000 francs a year, I made no personal expenditures whatever except for a few paintings which I bought cheaply and which you know about. Well, Mrs. Gauguin found the means to incur debts everywhere in the quarter."

Paul Gauguin letter
It's not me, it's you... Paul Gauguin's furious letter

Gauguin details at length his perception that his wife expresses affection every time she thinks he is about to make money, then goes cold or worse when it recedes toward the horizon. He also describes her as lying about how much money he has and selling possessions willy-nilly.

He concludes:

"I forgive everything, passions, etc., except for heartlessness and degradation for money. I have tried everything with her....Madame wishes to reap all by herself. (I don't concur.) Let the children do as their father did."

Then, with a characteristically sarcastic flourish:

"If you have time to waste, continue to feel sorry for Mrs. Gauguin."

The letter beat its $25,000 - $40,000 listing to sell for $50,000 and will make someone a fantastic alternative investment.

 

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