Gauguin had a taste for Kiwi ale (+audio)

His paintings fetch tens of millions of dollars and French post-impressionist Paul Gauguin drank our beer.
Audio: Michael Field interviews Dr Caroline Boyle Turner

Yeah, right, he really did – a drop from Woodville.

A dark brown beer bottle – embossed with a circle and The Kauri Brewery Ltd, Woodville – was exhumed during an excavation of the well behind his French Polynesian hideaway, along with four of his rotten teeth, some Tiger Balm, an empty Bovril jar and detritus of a debauched life.

The bottle was found in Gauguin's well, behind his house on the remote Marquesan island of Hiva Oa, along with four of his molars.

Born in Paris in 1848, Gauguin gave up the life of currency trading for art before moving in 1897 to Tahiti, where he painted some of his most celebrated works.

He died at Atuona on Hiva Oa in 1903 from assorted ailments, notably syphilis.

Art historian Caroline Boyle- Turner dug out Gauguin's well and has just published the results in the Amsterdam journal Van Gogh Studies.

She told The Dominion Post that Gauguin had a steady supply of liquor.

Also found in the well were three empty jars, each of which would have held 35 litres of wine.

There were also assorted bottles of rum and absinthe as well as the Tiger Balm for headaches.

Also found were two vials of morphine and a syringe.

Dr Boyle-Turner believes the Woodville beer was consumed by Gauguin because other litter associated with him, including the teeth and five broken pieces of hand-decorated plate made in Brittany where he had painted, was found nearby.

"I am not going to say 100 per cent that beer bottle was drunk by Gauguin, but the chances are pretty good," she said.

"The teeth are so rotten, so full of cavities, they could not have belonged to a Marquesian."

Kauri Brewery lasted till just after World War II before being overwhelmed by a bigger rival just to the south – Tui Brewery.

Kauri's buildings remain, but as a car repair shop.

Gauguin's works seldom come to auction.

His Maternite (II) sold in 2004 for US$39.2 million (NZ$51.4 million).


  • Paul Gauguin drank New Zealand beer. Click player to activate then click play to hear Fairfax Media's Michael Field talk with the woman who has evidence of it, Dr Caroline Boyle Turner.




The Dominion Post