61. Where do we come from? Where are we going?
Updated: May 24, 2022
Paul Gauguin, Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? detail, 1897-98, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
On a December afternoon several years ago, my friend and colleague Marjorie Schwarzer took a phone call in our shared office at the University of San Francisco. She listened for a few minutes and then handed me the receiver. The conversation I had then opened the door to what became this project. Tracing the history of Flowers and Fruit has been a constant in my life: I’ve changed jobs, my children have graduated college and begun their own journeys, two dogs have joined our household, we’ve grown accustomed to living in a pandemic, and through it all, I’ve kept chipping away, asking questions and following leads as I tried to learn more about the life and times of this both odd and utterly normal painting.
Last month, the project opened another door. I signed a contract with Rowman & Littlefield for a book, tentatively titled Authenticity and the Art Market: The Case of the Disappearing Gauguin. At the beginning of this year, I found that I wanted to be able to hold this project in my hands, to have it become something solid and tangible that had a dust jacket with a picture of Flowers and Fruit. Many emails and footnotes later, I have a chapter outline and, most importantly, a due date: I owe Rowman & Littlefield a completed manuscript in December 2023. If that date seems like a long time from now to you, trust me, it will be here all too soon. (Did I mention that we’re renovating our house? And a daughter is getting married? Also, I teach every semester.) The 2023 due date comes at the end of a host of earlier dates, the first of which is at the end of this week. It begins.
I am not sure in what form this blog will continue but continue it will. I’ll use this space to process and plan and tell some stories, to try them out to see if they sound true. There will be bits here that do not go into the book, and there will be bits in the book that don’t appear here. I’m still a little stunned to find myself here. Stunned and delighted and curious. I’ve never done this before. I hope you’ll be curious, too, to find out what happens next—what happens to the project, and what happens in the project. I promise that I’ll fill you in on what’s next with Marie Henry and Meier de Haan by the end of the summer, and sooner if I can carve out the time. (That’s not the material that’s due at the end of this week: you see how the contract changes the project?)
Thanks for being my audience for the last two years and change. I hope you’ll stick around.