Mata Mua (In Olden Times)

Paul Gauguin

Mata Mua (Erase una vez)

Gauguin, Paul

París, 1848 - Atuona, Islas Marquesas, 1903

Mata Mua (In Olden Times), 1892

© Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Signed & dated lower right: ''P. Gauguin 92''. Engraved lower left : ''Mata Mua''.
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.

Oil on canvas

91 x 69 cm

CTB.1984.8

Artwork history

  • Hôtel Drouot, lot 6, París, February 18, 1895. (n. 7 verbal process , 500 Fr); Sold Paul Gauguin.

  • Ambroise Vollard, París

  • Gustav Fayet, Beziers, June 1905

  • Paul Rosenberg, París-New York

  • Mr. & Mrs. Gilbert E. Fuller, Boston (MA)

  • Erna Woolf  Dreyfuss y Julius Wolf, New York

  • Sotheby’s Auctions,  New York, Lot 10, May 15,  1984

  • Jaime Ortiz-Patino & Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza

  • Sotheby’s Auctions, New York, Lot 8, March 9, 1989

  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, 1989

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

1893

Oeuvres récents de Gauguin, París, Galerie Durand-Ruel, n. 6

1906

Salon d'Automne, París, n. 7 u 8

1924

Important Pictures by 19th Century French Masters, Londres, Leicester Galleries, n. 58

1929

French Paintings of the 19th and 20th Centuries, Cambridge (MA), Fogg Art Museum, n. 48

1933

A Century of Progress, Chicago (IL), The Art Institute of Chicago, n. 353

1936

Gauguin, Cambridge (MA), Fogg Art Museum, n. 22

1936

Gauguin, Nueva York, Wildenstein & Co., n. 24

1939

Art in New England: Paintings, Drawings and Prints from Private Collections in New England, Boston (MA), Museum of Fine Arts, n. 51, pp. 39-40, lám. XXVII

1956

Gauguin, Nueva York, Wildenstein Galleries, n. 35

1959

Gauguin, Nueva York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n. 45

1959

Paintings from Private Collections, Nueva York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n. 44

1984

Modern Masters from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Londres, Royal Academy of Arts, n. 11, p. 33

1985

Maestri dell'arte moderna nella Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Florencia, Palazzo Pitti, n. 13, p. 147, lám. p. 31

1985

Moderne Malerei aus der Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza, Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum; Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, n. 11, p. 148, lám. p. 29

1985 - 1986

Maîtres Modernes de la Collection Thyssen-Bornemisza, París, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, n. 13, p. 155, lám. p. 39

1986

Maestros modernos de la Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Salas Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Biblioteca Nacional, Ministerio de Cultura; Barcelona, Palau de la Virreina, n. 13, p. 158, lám. p. 35

1989

Espressionismo. Capolavori della collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Lugano, Villa Favorita, no figuró en el catálogo

1989

Mata Mua de Paul Gauguin, Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

1990

A Feast of Colour, Hertogenbosch, Noordbrabants Museum, n. 24, p. 93

1990

Impressionismo e Postimpressionismo. Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza / Impressionismus und Postimpressionismus. Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza, Lugano, Villa Favorita, n. 28, p. 73

1995 - 1996

From Manet to Gauguin. Masterpieces from Swiss Collections, Tokio, Sezon Museum of Art

1996

De Canaletto a Kandinsky. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, n. 81, p. 210

1997 - 1998

The Spirit of the Place. Masterworks from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Nueva York, The Frick Collection; Hartford (CT), Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, n. 15, p. 54

1998 - 1999

Paul Gauguin. Das verlorene Paradies, Berlín, Neue Nationalgalerie, n. S. 4, pp. 4, 319

1999

Do impresionismo ó fauvismo: A pintura do cambio de século en París. Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Santiago de Compostela, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, n. 25, p. 80

1999 - 2000

Del impresionismo a la vanguardia en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Barcelona, Centre Cultural Caixa Catalunya, p. 110 y cub.

2000

Del post-impresionismo a las vanguardias. Pintura de comienzos del siglo XX en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Valencia, IVAM Centre Julio González, n. 7, p. 40

2000 - 2001

La Révolte de la couleur. De l'impressionnisme aux Avant-gardes. Chefs-d'oeuvre de la Collection Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bruselas, Musée d'Ixelles, n. 17, p. 60 y cub.

2001

Landschaften von Brueghel bis Kandinsky. Die Ausstellung zu Ehren des Sammlers Hans Heinrich Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, n. 64, p. 166 y cub.

2002

Il trionfo del colore. Collezione Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Kandinsky, Roma, Palazzo Ruspoli, p. 158 y cub.

2003 - 2004

Gauguin Tahiti. L´atelier des tropiques, París, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais; Boston (MA), Museum of Fine Arts, n. 95, p. 97 (sólo París)

2010 - 2011

Gauguin: Maker of Myth, Londres, Tate Modern; Washington, National Gallery of Art, n. 63, p. 131, lám.

2012 - 2013

Gauguin y el viaje a lo exótico, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, n. 7, p.102, lám. p. 103

2014

Gauguin: Metamorphoses, Nueva York, Museum of Modern Art, n. 89, pp. 138 y 224, lám. p. 139

2015

Paul Gauguin. Basilea. Fondation Beyeler, 2015. p. 94-95.

  • -Raphael, Max: Von Monet zu Picasso. Munich, Delphin-Verlag,1919 , lám. 16.

  • -Kahn, G.: ”Paul Gauguin”. L’Art et les artistes. París, November 1925, n. 61 , p. 37, lám.

  • -Rotonchamp, J. de: Gauguin. París, 1925, pp. 137, 154.

  • -Kunstler, C.: Gauguin. Peintre Maudit. París, 1947, lám. 17.

  • -Malingue, M.: Gauguin. Le Peintre et son Oeuvre. París, 1948, p. 174, lám.

  • -Dovski, L. van: Gauguin. Zúrich, 1950, n. 238, p. 347.

  • -Rewald, J.: Post-Impressionism: From Van Gogh to Gauguin. New York, 1956, pp. 522-524, lám.

  • -Rewald, J.: Le Post-Impressionnisme. París, 1961, p. 327.

  • -Wildenstein, Georges: Gauguin. París, Les Beaux Arts, 1964. L’Art Français; vol. 1: Catalogue , n. 467, pp. 188-189, lám.

  • -Sugana, G. M.: L’opera completa di Gauguin. Milano, Rizzoli, 1972. Classici dell’arte; vol. 61, n. 311, p. 105, lám.

  • -Guérin, D.: Paul Gauguin. The Writing of a Savage. New York, 1974, pp. XIV, XVII.

  • -Field, R. S.: Paul Gauguin: The Paintings of the First Voyage to Tahiti. New York, 1977, n. 51, pp. 168-171, 173-176.

  • -Wadley, Nicholas: Noa Noa. Gauguin’s Tahiti. Oxford, Phaidon, 1985, p. 115, fig. 72.

  • -Hoog, M.: Paul Gauguin. Life and Work. New York, 1987, n. 130, p. 186, lám.

  • -Sotheby’s (aut. corp.): Impressionist Paintings from the Collection of Jaime Ortiz-Patiño. [Auction Cat.]. New York, May 9, 1989, n. 8, lám.

  • -Whitfield, Sarah: Impressionismo e Postimpressionismo. Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza. [Exhib. Cat. Lugano, Villa Favorita]. Lugano, Fondazione Thyssen-Bornemisza – Milan, Electa, 1990. [Ed. al. e ing.] , p. 73, lám. [ Sheet by Whitfield]

  • -Vries-Evans, Susanna de: The Impressionists Revealed. Masterpieces from Private Collections. London, Little Brown, 1992, p. 114.

  • -De Canaletto a Kandinsky. Obras maestras de la colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. [Exhib. Cat. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza]. Llorens Serra, Tomàs (ed.). Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 1996 , n. 81, p. 210. [Sheet by Ronald Pickvance]

  • -Frèches-Thory, C.: ”Premier séjour à Tahiti. 1891-1893. La peinture”. En Gauguin Tahiti, l’atelier des tropiques. Frèches-Thory, C. y Shackelford, G. T. M. (eds.). [Exhib. Cat.  París, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais – Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 2003-2004]. París, Réunion des musées nationaux, 2003 , n. 95, pp. 91, 96-97, lám.

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 2, pp. 90, 92, lám. pp. 91, 93 (detail) [ Sheet by  Isabelle Cahn]

  • -Solana, Guillermo: Paisajes en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. London, Scala, 2006, pp. 77, 83, lám. p. 82, detalle p. 83.

  • -Wright, Alastair y Brown, Calvin: Gauguin’s Paradise Remembered: The Noa Noa Prints. [Exhib. Cat.]. Princeton, Princeton University Art Museum, 2010.

  • -Thomson, Belinda: “Landscape and Rural Narrative”. London/Washington 2010-2011, pp. 111-113, cit. p. 113.

  • -Wright, Alastair: “Paradise Lost: Gauguin and the Melancholy Logic of Reproduction”. Princeton 2010, pp. 49-99, p. 56, fig. p. 57.

  • -Thomson, Belinda (ed.): Gauguin: Maker of Myth. [Exhib. Cat. London, Tate Modern; Washington (DC), National Gallery of Art]. London, Tate, 2010.

  • -Borobia, Mar y Alarcó, Paloma (eds.): Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Obras escogidas. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2011, p. 198, lám. p. 199.

  • -Greub, Suzanne (ed.): Gauguin: Polynesia. [Exhib. Cat. Copenhague, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek; Seattle, Seattle Art Museum, 2011-2012]. Basel, Art Center Basel; Múnich, Hirmer Verlag Gmbh, 2011, p. 200, lam. n. 176

  • -Alarcó, P. y Borobia, M. (eds.): Guía de la colección. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2012, p. 272, lám. p. 273.

  • -Paul Gauguin. Basilea. Fondation Beyeler, 2015. PP. 94-95. (Exhib. Cat.)

Expert report

In the month of November 1893, only a few weeks after his return from Tahiti, Gauguin organised an exhibition of his recent works at the Durand-Ruel Gallery, and began writing a text entitled Noa Noa (“Perfumed”) in order to explain the meaning of his paintings to a public who knew nothing of the Tahiti customs and the Maori gods. In spite of these precautions, art lovers and journalists were deeply disconcerted by these enigmatic scenes, these paintings with shimmering colours, these flat perspectives and the obscure inscriptions which were the titles of the works. Among the forty-six entries in the catalogue, essentially of paintings made during his stay in the Pacific islands, with the exception of three Breton paintings, was, at number six, Mata Mua (In Olden Times).

In an idyllic landscape, enclosed by pink and purple mountains, some women play the flute and sing before a giant stone idol. They celebrate the goddess Hina (the moon) whom Gauguin also represented in a painting of 1893, Hina Maruru (Feast of Hina), (W 500).

The landscape, made up of interlocking coloured areas covering the entire composition, can be read from bottom to top like a Japanese print. The trunk of a giant tree divides the space into two sections with music in the foreground and dance in the middle ground. The painting is not the transcription of a real scene or landscape, but a re-composition of elements found in other works painted by the artist between 1892 and 1894, for instance, the same landscape serves as a background to Tahiti Pastoral, W 470; the large yellow tree in the background is also present in Fatata te moua (At the Foot of the Mountain) (W 481), and in Nave Nave Moe (The Joy of Resting) (W 512); the idol can be found in Parahi te Marahe (The Temple is There) (W 483), and in Nave Nave Moe (The Joy of Resting) (W 512); as for the dancers only, see Mahana no Atua (The Day of God) (W 513); for the two women sitting, Areareas I and II (Joyfulness) (W 468 and 469); and for the flute player alone, Parau Parau (The Whispered Words) (W 472) and Hina Maruru (Feast of Hina) (W 500).

Gauguin had gone to Tahiti in order to get to know the ancient Maori civilisation, jeopardised by colonisation and Christianisation. He wanted to revive through his paintings those sacred “olden times” in which man lived in harmony with nature and find again, far from Europe, the escaped gods and the original paradise. Shortly after his arrival, he set off on a trip around the island to discover the places still preserved from the corruption and decadence he found in Papeete. “Leaving the path that borders the seashore, I went deep into the thicket which rises quite far into the mountain. Got to a small valley. There some inhabitants want to live as they did in olden times.” These few lines, hastily written in the first manuscript of Noa noa, were developed in the final version and are the explanation given by the artist of his painting Mata Mua, a true hymn in the honour of the Maori woman: “In times of richness, social importance, national glory, when the autochthonous race reigned in the Islands and had not yet welcomed the foreigner, in the era of the gods, Matamua! The legend finds its substance everywhere in this naturally fabulous land, but it is the feminine deity Hina, the goddess of lie and pity, who appeals most to those people from the past. The moon has its feasts celebrated with embraces, with Songs, with Dances, celebrated by Nature through ineffable prodigies. […] The women remain faithful to the dead gods due to an instinctive nostalgia. Their pleasures and terrors always inhabit Matamua. This is how the artist sees the childish and majestic woman, who symbolises an entire ancient race, and he has given her the task to express in the painting the secrets he stole from the extinct cult of which she was both the idol and the priestess, and from nature, of which she is a kind of marvellous synthesis.”

The painting, which did not find a buyer in the auction organised by Gauguin in 1895 to finance his second trip to the Pacific islands, was reduced to the price of 500 FF, fixed by the artist. It later became part of Gustave Fayet’s collection and then was in the possession of various consecutive private owners before being bought, in May 1984, at a record price and in equal parts, by Baron Hans Heinrich von Thyssen and Jaime Ortiz-Patiño. When, in 1989, the latter decided to sell his share of the painting, Baron Thyssen became its only owner.

Isabelle Cahn