A memorable gift

On 12 September 2019, by Caroline Legrand

Four paintings by Achille Laugé have turned up in Toulouse. Doctor Gaujon owned them all, including this noteworthy still life the artist gave him as a wedding gift – a provenance that will surely have bids blooming.

Achille Laugé (1861-1944), Nature morte aux grenades (Still Life with Pomegranates), ca. 1893-1895, oil on canvas, 60 x 73 cm (detail).
Estimate: €100,000/150,000

Achille Laugé’s landscapes have been a familiar sight on the market for several decades, but this is the first time these four paintings have come up for auction: until now they were in Victor Gaujon’s collection. Born 1865 in Carcassonne, Gaujon, a physician, belonged to the upper-middle class of his hometown, where his friends included the art critic and contributor to La Revue Méridionale Achille Astre and the politician Albert Sarraut. Astre and Sarraut were among his most faithful patrons at a time when Laugé’s paintings sold poorly, for they were still in a pure pointillist style, fully under the influence of Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the île de la Grande Jatte presented in 1886. In 1896, Laugé started using a cross-hatching technique and, after 1905, a freer style featuring broad, flowing brushstrokes. These works, especially the famous paintings of the landscapes around Cailhau, where he had moved, sold much better.

Japonisme
However, today the early 1890s paintings are the ones that achieve the highest auction prices. By a happy coincidence, that is when Gaujon got married. As a wedding gift, Laugé gave him this impressive Nature morte aux grenades (Still Life with Pomegranates), which reveals his deep knowledge of the flower-painting tradition, especially Fantin-Latour’s decorative works bursting with colourful bouquets standing out against neutral backgrounds, as well as the Japanese aesthetics highly fashionable with late 19th-century avant-garde artists. Gaujon purchased the other two, estimated today at €45,000/55,000 and €50,000/70,000, directly from the artist around 1893. Branche d'amandier en fleurs (Blossoming Almond Branch) and Roses dans un verre d'eau, une fleur de géranium (Roses in a Glass of Water, Geranium Flower) feature harmonious colours and a simplified layout striking a subtle balance between solids and voids.
The last of the four works is a portrait of Dr Gaujon commissioned by the model himself. Dated 1895, it is estimated at €30,000/40,000. Although in the hands of the same family until now, these paintings are not completely unknown to the public: they have featured in several major exhibitions, including the 2002 "Georges Seurat and Neo-impressionism" show in Japan and the 2010 "Achille Laugé, le point, la ligne, la lumière" retrospective at the Musée de la Chartreuse in Douai, France.

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