Gauguin purposefully displayed his Père Paillard and its female companion piece, Thérèse, in front of his Polynesian home (which he named the House of Pleasure), so that islanders passing by could appreciate the two carved works. Their meaning was evident to everyone. From Père Paillard (Father Lechery or Debauchery) inscribed on its base, they recognized the local Catholic bishop, Monseigneur Martin, who entreated Gauguin to stop his liaisons with local women, while pursuing them himself (with Thérèse and others) despite his vows of celibacy.
Gauguin shows the bishop for what he considered him to be: a nude, horned devil. Though outwardly pious, Père Paillard's solemn expression and praying hands fail to mask his inner desires. Two nude women, carved in shallow relief near the base of the sculpture, may allude to his private predilection. Its specific context notwithstanding, the sculpture also forcefully embodies the artist's primitive aesthetic and anti-Western values.
Gauguin retained the cylindrical form of the miro wood log (native to the Marquesas Islands where he moved in his final years) in the finished figure, a reflection of his concept of beauty as a harmony between subject and material. For the most part, the sculpture's golden brown surface retains the primitive, rhythmic patterns of the artist's chisels and gouges; only the figure's cheeks, forehead, and jutting chin are filed smooth. Gold paint, used to accent the bishop's eyes, the women, and the inscription, has largely disappeared over time.
carved in relief along central front of self-base: PERE PAiLLARO[sic]; incised on left of self-base: PGO.
Marks and Labels
Collection of the artist until his death, 1903; (his estate sale, Tahiti, 2 September 1903, possibly among nos. 60-62); sold to Emile Lévy [1858-1932], Papeete; sold c. 1905 to (Galerie Druet, Paris). Possibly (Ambroise Vollard [1867-1939] Paris); (Etienne Bignou, Paris and New York), by 1928; gift June 1930 to Chester Dale [1883-1962], New York; bequest 1963 to NGA.
- Exposition de sculptures et poteries de Gauguin, Galerie Eugène Blot, Paris, 1910, possibly as Idole maorie.
- Exposition Paul Gauguin, Nunès et Fiquet, Paris, 1917, no. 23, as Père Paillard sous les traits de l'Evêque de Papeete (Taït).
- Exposition Rétrospective de P. Gauguin, Galerie L. Dru, Paris, 1923, no. 59.
- Gauguin, Sculpteur et Graveur, Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 1928, no. 22.
- Loan Exhibition. Gauguin. For the benefit of the Citizens' Committee for Children of New York City, Inc., Wildenstein and Company, New York, 1956, no. 102.
- Paul Gauguin 1848-1903, The Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Florida, 1956, no. 28, repro.
- Gauguin: Paintings, Drawings, Prints, Sculpture, The Art Institute of Chicago; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1959, no. 124, repro., as Father Lechery (Pere Paillard).
- Paul Gauguin, Haus der Kunst, Munich, 1960, no. 158, repro.
- The Chester Dale Bequest, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965, unnumbered checklist.
- Gauguin to Moore: Primitivism in Modern Sculpture, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada, 1981-1982, no. 17.
- Exotic Worlds: European Phantasies, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, Federal Republic of Germany, 1987, no. 43.
- The Art of Paul Gauguin, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Art Institute of Chicago; Grand Palais, Paris, 1988-1989, no. 259, color repro., as Father Lechery.
- Gogen: Vzgliad iz Rossii [Gauguin], The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; The State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad, 1989, no. 64, color repro.
- Gauguin: Maker of Myth, Tate, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2010-2011, not in catalogue (shown only in Washington).
- Gauguin / Polynesia, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen; Seattle Art Museum, 2011-2012, no. 334, repro.
- Gauguin, Paul. Avant et après. 1903: 46. Facs. ed. Leipzig, 1913; reprinted Copenhagen, 1951.
- Morice, Charles. Paul Gauguin. Paris, 1919: 224.
- Gauguin, Pola. My Father, Paul Gauguin. Translated by Arthur G. Chater. New York, 1937: 262, 266 (new edition, 1988). Originally Paul Gauguin, Mon Père. Translated by Georges Sautreau. Paris, 1938.
- Loize, Jean. Les Amitiès du peintre Georges-Daniel de Monfreid et ses réliques de Gauguin. Paris, 1951: 133, 175.
- Chassé, Charles. Gauguin et son temps. Paris, 1955: 100, 109, 115, repro.
- Le Bronnec, Guillaume. "Les Dernières Années." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 6th per., 47 (January-April 1956; published 1958): 196, 199.
- Gray, Christopher. Sculpture and Ceramics of Paul Gauguin. Baltimore, 1963: 288, no. 136, repro.
- Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Paintings & Sculpture of the French School in the Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 145, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 157, as Père Paillard (Father Lechery).
- Danielsson, Bengt. Gauguin in the South Seas. Garden City, New Jersey, 1966: 272.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 139, repro., as Père Paillard (Father Lechery).
- Andersen, Wayne, assisted by Barbara Klein. Gauguin's Paradise Lost. New York, 1971: 259.
- Teilhet-Fiske, Jehanne. Paradise Reviewed. An Interpretation of Gauguin's Polynesian Symbolism. Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1983: 158.
- Brettel. "The Fine Years: Tahiti and Hivaoa." In The Art of Paul Gauguin. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Art Institute of Chicago; Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. Washington, D.C., 1988: 464-465, color repro.
- Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 96, repro.
- Butler, Ruth, and Suzanne Glover Lindsay, with Alison Luchs, Douglas Lewis, Cynthia J. Mills, and Jeffrey Weidman. European Sculpture of the Nineteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2000: 245-251, color repro.
- Bailey, Martin. "Gauguin's 'will and testament'." The Art Newspaper (1 February 2015): 32.