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THE CASE OF THE DISAPPEARING GAUGUIN

“The Case of the Disappearing Gauguin is a captivating exploration of art authentication through the real-life journey of one painting. Through meticulous research and masterful storytelling, Brown unravels a mystery set in the intricate world of auction houses, collectors, and provenance research. It’s a fascinating and provocative tale.”

Phyllis Hecht,
Founding Director, Johns Hopkins University
MA in Museum Studies

I saw Flowers and Fruit for the first time in 2017, on a grey California winter day. Since then, I have reconstructed the painting’s history. I have visited libraries and archives in California, New York, Paris, and Brittany. I have scoured the internet. I wrote about the painting in a blog. Two years ago I decided I wanted my research, and the story I was uncovering, to have its own life in the world. My book will be published in summer 2024. 

 

The Case of the Disappearing Gauguin:  A Study of Authenticity and the Art Market is filled with surprising characters and unexpected places. A globetrotting Gold Rush heiress. An awkward Paris schoolmaster. A celebrated French actor. And a museum of history and art in California’s Central Valley. What do they have in common? They are all connected by an oil painting, a still life called Flowers and Fruit that may or may not have been painted by the post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin. 

 

In the decade that museums began to collect modern art, Flowers and Fruit traveled the art market in Paris and New York. Experts and connoisseurs hailed it as a signature work of Gauguin just as he came to be acknowledged as a master. When it joined the Haggin Museum in Stockton, California, locals treasured it as “the Museum’s Gauguin.” 

 

But by 1964, Gauguin scholars and experts in Paris and New York had lost track of the painting and declared it lost. When it resurfaced in 2018, they questioned its authenticity. How could a genuine Gauguin have been hiding in plain sight in a provincial American museum? Is Flowers and Fruit a forgery or is it authentic? Using never-before-seen archives and making new connections, I have written the biography of a painting—and now I can invite you to explore the painting’s journey in and out of authenticity with me. 

 

Now undergoing technical examination as a result of my findings, Flowers and Fruit has embarked on a new chapter of its life. If the painting is authentic, it will be the most valuable painting in the Haggin’s collection—and one of the most important paintings in California. And if the painting is a forgery, who was the forger?

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