Impressionist and Modern Art
23 Jun 2014
London, New Bond Street

As summer arrives in London, yellow roses blossom at Bonhams. Bouquet de roses by Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903) is the highlight of the Impressionist and Modern Art sale on 23rd June at Bonhams New Bond Street. Previously unknown even to Gauguin scholars, Bouquet de roses is an important, and delightful, discovery that will be offered for sale with estimates of £800,000-£1,200,000.

Paul Gauguin was a post-impressionist artist whose work influenced art giants Picasso and Matisse and is among the most celebrated of the modern masters.

However, Gauguin only began his career as an artist after numerous other professions, including the French Navy, stock broking and tarpaulin sales. Gauguin's artwork only truly gained popularity and renown after his death, and he died in relative anonymity and of modest wealth.

The oil on canvas, Bouquet de roses, is signed 'P Gauguin 84' to the lower right. In 1884 the artist was 36 years of age and still working as a successful Parisian stock broker. However, that year saw a major financial crisis affecting the French economy and as such Gauguin, his Danish wife and their five children left their life in Paris for Rouen.

The still life of flowers was, as ever, a popular commercial subject at the time and Bouquet de roses perhaps shows an attempt by Gauguin to earn a living from his art. It forms part of a series of very decorative still-lives that were more than likely an attempt by Gauguin to attract collectors to his work.

Several of the 1884 works are dedicated to friends who had supported Gauguin and Bouquet de Roses was gifted by the artist to its first owner, a local politician in Rouen. The yellow roses - a traditional symbol of friendship - suggest that it may have been painted specifically for that individual.

Paul Gauguin a brief history

Born to a French journalist father and a Peruvian mother, Paul Gauguin was only 18 months old when the family left Paris bound for Lima. On the journey, Gauguin's father died. The remaining family stayed in Peru for six years and Gauguin's earliest memories were born in Peru. One of the artist's earliest recollections of his mother was said to be of her in colourful traditional costume, perhaps explaining his fascination with ethnic female subjects.

When Paul Gauguin was seven years old, the family moved back to France, to Orleans, just south of Paris. After completing his military service in the merchant marine he joined the French Navy and served two years. It was while in the Caribbean on service that he learned of the death of his mother.

On his return to Paris, aged 23, his mother's wealthy lover secured Gauguin a job as stock broker. For the next 11 years he became a successful business man, marrying and raising five children. The wealthy family lived in an up market area of Paris where Gauguin frequented art galleries and collected work by emerging artists.

Gauguin was allegedly prone to depression and in 1888 Gauguin spent two months painting with his friend Van Gogh in the south of France. The relationship was volatile and Gauguin left when Van Gogh confronted Gauguin with a razor blade. That same evening Van Gogh famously cut off the lobe of his ear.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

  1. Sarah Gubbins
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work / x55002 +44 20 7468 5855
    FaxFax: +44 20 7468 8209

Related auctions