The Old Mill- Vincent Van Gogh-1888
Meet the Gauguin obsessive who’s trying to prove that major art museums are showing fakes.
It’s the nude that bothers Fabrice Fourmanoir.
The way she’s painted is “unsightly” and “vulgar,” quite unlike the Polynesian women of his mind’s eye. Nor does he like the way she’s artificially inserted on the canvas, part of what he calls an “uninventive assemblage” with no coherent symbolism. Yet there she stands at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, in a painting titled “The Invocation,” attributed to Paul Gauguin.
But Fourmanoir’s roving, inquisitorial eye doesn’t stop there. He’s similarly bothered by another painting, this one at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, titled “Women and a White Horse.” Though it’s labeled as a Gauguin, its signature is “very weak,” he opines. And the background vegetation looks more like Tahiti than the Marquesas Islands, where Gauguin was living when he was supposed to have painted it.
Fourmanoir isn’t your average weekend art sleuth. The life and works of Gauguin have consumed him for many decades. These two paintings make him suspicious, so much so that questioning their integrity has become a personal crusade. He thinks they’re impostors, and he won’t rest until there’s a full investigation.
Born in Calais, France, Fourmanoir, 63, might once have been dismissed as a crackpot, a wannabe who would never be welcomed into the sophisticated enclave of art scholarship. But since January he’s gained some standing in this forbidding world, after playing a leading role in a blush-inducing admission by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles that a Gauguin sculpture, purchased in 2002 for a reported $3 million to $5 million, is not actually by Gauguin. Now, even as some of the most renowned art scholars continue to look with withering skepticism at Fourmanoir’s motives and credentials, he plans to make the most of his newfound status.
Marc Chagall’s granddaughter, Bella Meyer, recalls vivid memories of the artist speaking about his love and muse, Bella Chagall. Les Amoureux, on offer this November, depicts Bella and Marc mid-embrace, masterfully capturing “the beauty of life.”
Beautiful harvest of major exhibitions this autumn in Paris, with Miró at the Grand Palais, cubism at the Pompidou Center, Nadar at the BnF, Basquiat and Egon Schiele at the Vuitton Foundation, and Picasso again and again: its blue and pink periods at the Museum d’Orsay and a reflection on the concept of a masterpiece at the Picasso Museum.
© The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California