I am taking an interest in Gauguin portraits these days and wondered about the identity of this caricatured personality who pops up repeatedly in the artist’s work.
Meijer de Haan was a Dutch industrialist* turned artist and Gauguin’s painting companion in Brittany. He was under 5 feet tall, tubercular and only lived to be 43, but he must have made an impression on Gauguin. Perhaps he stood for something in Gauguin’s Symbolist mind. What do you think that something might have been?
Here is Meijer as he saw himself … much less interesting than Gauguin’s take, don’t you think? De Haan’s self portrait was stolen in a big art heist in 2012, smuggled bck to Romania in pillows by the thieves, then apparently burned by the thieves’ mothers, to get rid of the evidence.
Here he is again, in two more Gauguin pieces, left, carved into a partially burnt oak log and right, in a South Seas painting. Meijer de Haan never went along on Gauguin’s Tahitian adventures, but he was clearly on the artist’s mind.
*By “industrialist”, I mean he was part owner, with his brothers, of a successful business selling factory-made biscuits. He sold his share to take up painting and associated with painters who are now famous.