VII. Are there hints in Gauguin's writings, too?


Yes, there are. The most interesting one is a passage of his "Intimate Journals" (Avant et Après) where Gauguin states: "I had to look for detours in order to avoid going to prison". He goes on by giving an example of his rhetoric ingenuity, followed by two lettered quotations. The first is taken from the ancient Greek orator Demosthenes (in Greek letters), meaning "When it was night (dark)", the second is a slightly modified verse from the tragedy "Athalie" by Jean Racine: "It happened in the horror of a gloomy night" ("C'était pendant l'horreur d' une profonde nuit").

This passage must be read as an indirect confession: Racine's drama deals with the fate of the wrongful and tyrannical Hebrew queen Athalia who follows the pagan cult of Baal and tries to force the Jewish people away from their God. But in the end she becomes scared and is haunted by nightmares; and she is finally killed during an uprising of the people under the leadership of the young king Joas.

Gauguin cites here a verse from the scene where Athalia speaks about her nightmares and her fears that follow her everywhere despite all her efforts to avoid them, just like God's eye follows Cain until his end in Victor Hugo's poem "La Conscience" (The Conscience).
In this passage of his memoirs Gauguin obviously hints at the "horror" of that crucial night when he injured Van Gogh, and confirms that only by his rhetoric skill he had succeeded in convincing the police and everyone else of his innocence, thus avoiding going to prison.

The original passage in the handwritten memoirs "Avant et Après"...

... read more

Another interesting hint in Gauguin's writings is a passage in his letter to his friend André Fontainas (1865–1948), written in September 1902, eight months before his death on the isle of Hiva Oa. Gauguin wrote:
"As to van Gogh's noble character, I had to congratulate myself, being the artist with sealed lips."30 (question XI)

Here, Gauguin confirms the existence of that "pact of silence" with regard to Vincent Van Gogh. At the same time, he pays deference to his late colleague who had shown his "noble character" by withholding the truth about the sabre cut by which Gauguin had severed his ear.



<< previous Next>>