"I still hope to see Noa Noa published before I die": Gauguin's travel journal

Gauguin, Paul, French painter (1848-1903). Autograph letter signed "Paul Gauguin".

Tahiti, March 1897.

4to. 2 pp. In French.


To the Symbolist writer and theorist Charles Morice (1860-1919), concerning a new text by Morice and the possible publication of Gauguin's travel journal "Noa Noa". While Gauguin states that Morice's "brochure" is well written and perfectly reasonable, he is more skeptical when it comes to artists taking a political stance: "Yes, it is true that it makes me sad to see the poet, the artist meddling with politics. Are not Retté, Zolan and the others enough?" He worries that other young authors such as Camille Mauclair and Alfred Jarry are getting ahead of his friend: "When will you thus assume your real place that you should occupy? The whole world is marching, catching up with you and outpacing you." Gauguin goes on to discuss his own manuscript for "Noa Noa" that he had successfully read to colonial officers in Tahiti. By chance, the son of the Parisian publisher Charles Delagrave was serving under the commander of a naval ship and about to return to Paris: "This young man will be in Paris at the same time as this letter and I gave him your address that he had asked from me: he is eager to publish Noa Noa. [...] I still hope to see Noa Noa published before I die".

In closing, Gauguin reports his recovering health and "courage to live and work". Although he had sent to his confidant, the painter and collector Daniel de Monfreid, "some oeuvres that must be on the level of my old works from Tahiti", Gauguin does not expect his work to be well received by critics: "Unfortunately, this plump art from Papua (as Mauclair says) does not stand much of a chance for a future. At last, my life here is organized to live off very little and finally I will have rest".

This letter is an important source to the publication history of Noa Noa. While Delagrave did not ultimately publish the text, Gauguin charged Morice with revising it. It is this revision that was first published in two issues of the literary magazine La Revue Blanche (October and November 1897), and then by Éditions de La Plume in Paris, ca. 1900. Later critics disparaged Morice's edition, and Gauguin's original text was eventually published. Morice wrote an obituary for Le Mercure after his friend's premature death in 1903, as well as the first Gauguin biography (Paris 1910).

Insignificant tears and browning; some brownstains and a faint mark from a woodcut impression on different paper.

Stock Code: BN#53720 Tag: