It was his visits to the distant parts of the world back in the late 19th century that lifted this artist's career from an interesting contemporary contributor to someone whose oeuvre was truly unique. We can all instantly recognise the likes of Tahitian Women on the Beach, Where Do We Come From? and Two Tahitian Women as being from Gauguin's hand, but he could not have produced those paintings without considerable initial practice. That is where drawings such as the one in front of us here come in, giving an insight into his study practices, where he would work hard to improve his techniques as a draughtsman whilst also trying out new ideas for content. Portraiture would, of course, become an important part of his career and he became interested in the lives of local people in the Pacific region, particularly so in women and children. The artist returned to France after his initial visits to these exotic islands, but ultimately found a happiness here that forced him to return and ultimately settle a few years later.
This drawing was completed using graphite and the dimensions of the piece, being around 30cm long and 25cm wide are consistent with it having come from a sketchpad, the like of which the artist would have taken with him on his travels. In the case of most famous artists these pads are often broken up and the artworks then gifted or sold separately. He may not even have considered this an proper artwork in its own right at the time, and more just a study for a later painting. Either way, it would now hold an intrinsic value of several thousands of dollars, probably tens of thousands, were it ever to come up for sale at auction. The Gauguin name immediately places a premium on anything connected to his career, and interest in his work has never softened in the years that have passed since his death.
The website of the Cleveland Museum of Art have listed this piece as having come from the Mr. and Mrs. Lewis B. Williams Collection 1949, which suggests that in that particular year, these individuals would have handed over a number of pieces to the institition. In some cases people will retain ownership but loan items on a long term basis, but in other cases they will happily pass everything over in order to boost the display of the particular art institution. They may have had a personal connection to the venue that made them choose it specifically, or just lived locally and felt that it would best do justice to these items. These drawings are not always on display, though, so check ahead if you particularly want to see them, though there is also much else to enjoy here as well.