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Gauguin: Samuel Courtauld's alter ego?

Part 4: Why this painting?

None of this biography does, of course, explain exactly why he bought Gauguin’s Nevermore. It was the first Gauguin that he bought (in 1926) and he acquired others - there are a total of three in the Courtauld Bequest. Nor is there any single circumstance that I know if which dictated its purchase. Yet, as that first interest in Turner indicates, there was under the aloof and autocratic exterior a passionate, sensual and emotional being. He wrote romantic verses and sonnets about the paintings that he owned, and he believed in Beauty. Towards the end of his life he wrote - in terms that Gauguin would have understood - "Beauty to me of course is spiritual as well as physical and the most complete Beauty must be both. I feel too that bodily beauty is closely and subtly linked with beauty of spirit. This feeling about Beauty and the need for it are essential parts of me: unless women have beauty they are antipathetic to me in life as well as art. It is an ingrained prejudice...." It is tempting to think that he might have had Nevermore in mind when he wrote these words. He then continued "what interests me most in writing - in any other art - is trying to get in touch with the mind of the artist for this revelation of his own mind is the most interesting thing of his art ....." For Sam Courtauld art was more a matter of spiritual communion than intellectual analysis.

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