Paul Gauguin Portrait of Meijer de Haan 1889

  • Not on view

The Dutch painter Meijer de Haan, a friend of Gauguin’s, broods chin on hand and contemplates religion and philosophy—subjects suggested by his books, John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost (1674) and Thomas Carlyle’s novel Sartor Resartus (1833–34). The bowl of apples meanwhile suggests both the fruit that tempted Eve in Eden and still lifes by Paul Cézanne, a contemporary whom Gauguin admired. The table is rendered as a powerful diagonal dividing the canvas, and this dynamic composition, the large swaths of bold color, and De Haan’s masklike face typify Gauguin’s language of modern painting.

Gallery label from 2019
Additional text

This portrait depicts one of Gauguin’s closest friends, the Dutch painter Meijer de Haan, in the pose of a thinker. It includes two books that reflect Meyer de Haan’s preoccupations with religion and philosophy: John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus. Carlyle’s central character is called Diogenes, after the Greek philosopher who searched by lamplight for an honest man, and the prominent lamp here may extend this reference. This work was originally intended as part of a decorative panel for the door of an inn at Le Pouldu—a small coastal village in France where both artists stayed—to be hung next to a companion self-portrait by Gauguin that is now in the collection of the National Gallery, in Washington, D.C.

Gallery label from Cezanne to Picasso: Paintings from the David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection, July 17–August 31, 2009.
Oil on wood
31 3/8 x 20 3/8" (79.6 x 51.7 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David Rockefeller
Object number
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

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Provenance Research Project

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

Marie Henry (later Mothéré), Le Pouldu
1919 Galerie Barbazanges, Paris
1923 Alex Reid and Lefevre, London
1928 Kraushaar Galleries, New York
1928 Margarett and Quincy Adams Shaw McKean, Boston, Mass.
Margarett Sargent McKean, Beverly, Mass.
M. Knoedler and Co., New York
1958 David and Peggy Rockefeller, New York
1958 The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Per Masterpieces from the David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: Manet to Picasso (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1994)

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