Gauguin, Paul (1848 - 1903)
Oviri, 1893 - 94
Bronze, Height: 74.3cm, 29.2 in Edition 12/12
- Signed with initials 'PGO' (on the right side)
- Titled 'OVIRI' (on the front)
- Numbered and stamped with foundry mark '12/12 C. VALSUANI CIRE PERDUE' (on the back)
Conceived circa 1893 - 1894
This work was fully authorised by Gauguin in a letter to Ambroise Vollard (see accompanying letter). The bronze versions were cast c. 1955 in an edition of 12. One of the bronzes is placed on his grave in Tahiti. Another of the bronzes was sold in 2006 by Christie's New York for $251,200.
Gauguin wished to have Oviri on his grave, suggesting its importance. Oviri itself communicates Gauguin's anarchic and uncompromising beauty; a very personal totem. Property of a GentlemanLot Essay
Oviri is the name of the goddess of mourning in Tahitian mythology. It is also the title of a traditional Tahitian song that tells of the love and longing between two women whose restless hearts grow cold and silent to each other. Before it was embodied as Gauguin’s last sculpture and masterpiece, Oviri was one of the inner images in the artist’s “little world of friends” that spiritually invited and eventually took him to Tahiti.
This unclassifiable piece Oviri (literally translates as “savage”) is leaning on her mysteriously long and thick hair that curiously leaves the back of the head open. She is depicted as indifferently killing a fox while dispassionately caressing its cub thus communicating “life in death”. With its disturbing physical features as well as its unusual posture, Oviri appears as a strange amalgamation between a wild human being and some unknown creature.
Gauguin hints at his empathic connection to the remarkable and unique rigidity of Oviri as if it is part of his inner self: “I am a savage in spite of myself. That's also why my work is inimitable.”Exhibitions
Rome, Complesso del Vittoriano, Paul Gauguin: Artist of Myth and Dream, October 2007-February 2008, p. 322, no. 94 (illustrated in color, p. 323).Literature
- H. Castets, "Gauguin," Revue universelle, no. III:xcvi, 15 October 1903, p. 536.
- C. Morice, Paul Gauguin, Paris, 1919, p. 158 (ceramic version illustrated, p. 159).
- A. Vollard, Souvenirs d'un marchand de tableaux, Paris, 1937, p. 197.
- R. Goldwater, Paul Gauguin, New York, 1957, p. 27.
- C. Gray, Sculpture and Ceramics of Paul Gauguin, Baltimore, 1963, pp. 245-247, no. 113 (partially glazed stoneware version illustrated).
- M. Bodelsen, Gauguin's Ceramics, A Study in the Development of his Art, London, 1964, pp. 146-149, fig. 99 (painted stoneware version illustrated, p. 147; dated 1893-1895).
- G.M. Sugana, L'opera completa di Gauguin, Milan, 1972, p. 111, no. 394-1 (terracotta version illustrated, p. 110).
- J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso, New York, 1991, vol. I, pp. 459 and 461 (partially glazed stoneware version illustrated, p. 458; dated 1894).
- C. Andréani, Les Céramiques de Gauguin, Paris, 2003, pp. 46 and 140 (ceramic version illustrated in color on the cover, pp. 47-49 and 140-141).
- Belinda Thomson (ed.), Gauguin by himself, London, 1993, no. 212, illustration in colour of the stone version p. 269
- Gauguin in New York Collections: The Lure of the Exotic (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2002, fig. 53, illustration of the cast mounted on the artist's grave site p. 138
- Gauguin, Tahiti, L'Atelier des tropiques (exhibition catalogue), Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris & Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2004, figs. 129 & 129, illustration in colour of the stone version pp. 190 & 193
- Gauguin, Maker of myth (exhibition catalogue), Tate Modern, London & National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2011, no. 112, illustration in colour of the stone version p. 173