Tahitian Woman, c.1894

This painting is Carrick Hill's biggest mystery. It entered the collection at Carrick Hill in the late 1940s as a work by Paul Gauguin. The initialled signature, style and subject matter appeared to affirm that this was, indeed, a major work by the French master.

However, visual and technical investigations over the past four years have not confirmed the previous attribution to Gauguin.

Carrick Hill's Tahitian Woman is closely related in style to a pastel which Gauguin completed in Paris in 1894, and is now in the Brooklyn Museum. That picture, like The Big Tree, was painted in Gauguin's Paris studio between visits to Tahiti. It was a period during which Gauguin was mainly occupied with woodblock printing, watercolour transfers and writing. Very few oils were painted at that time. None of the official catalogues list an oil of this description, and a search of all the writings of Gauguin and his friends and fellow artists has failed to come up with any reference to a previously unknown version in oils of Brooklyn's Tahitian Woman.

Even the initialled signature is significantly different from other known examples. Gauguin nearly always used his full name, or the initials PGO.

The quality of the paintwork, and the uneasy, even crude treatment of parts of the upper body make it problematic to credit this work to Gauguin.

Despite intensive investigation, opinion remains divided. Is Carrick Hill's Tahitian Woman an original Gauguin, a copy after a lost original with an unauthentic signature, or an outright fake? There are many possibilities, and this painting will continue to excite comment and varying opinions for some time to come. It is likely that it may never be possible to provide a single, satisfactory explanation about the production of Carrick Hill's Tahitian Woman.