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Images from Tahiti, 1870-1895

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Images from Tahiti

Biographical / Historical

Sophia Hoare, née Johnson, (also known as Mrs. S. Hoare, Madame S. Hoare, Suzanne Hoare, or Susan Hoare) immigrated from Manchester, England to Auckland, New Zealand with her husband, Charles Burton Hoare and their three daughters in 1863. There Charles established a photography studio called Hoare & Wooster; the partner named Wooster has yet to be identified with certainty. By 1868 the Hoare family had moved on to Papeete, Tahiti, where Charles again opened a studio. There is no record of him in Tahiti after 1876, and he may have traveled to San Francisco, dying there or elsewhere in the United States around 1879. Sophia took over the business and ran Atelier Hoare for over 30 years.

In 1889 Sophia exhibited her photographs at the Exposition Universelle de Paris where she was awarded a bronze medal. Prior to the exhibition Sophia signed her photographs "Mrs. S. Hoare," changing her imprint to "Madame S. Hoare" after 1889. In addition to increasing her exposure in general, the exposition was important to Hoare in that Paul Gaugauin would likely have encountered her photographs there. Gauguin would certainly have become personally acquainted with Sophia once he arrived in Papeete in 1891. That he knew her work is evidenced by the inclusion of one of her photographs of King Pōmare V in his original draft of Noa Noa. Sophia remained in Papette until 1904 when she and her daughter Elizabeth joined her other daughters Louisa and Octavia in San Francisco. Sophia died sometime between 1910 and 1920. The final disposition of Atelier Hoare is unknown.

The French photographer, Marie-Charles Georges Henri Spitz, known as Charles Spitz or Georges Spitz, was born in Marmoutier, Bas-Rhin, on September 22, 1857, and died in Brest, Finistere, on January 9, 1894. He arrived in Tahiti in 1879 as a member of the French naval infantry and was released from duty in 1880. He remained in Tahiti and opened a studio in Papeete. His connection to the Hoare studio, if any, is unclear. After Spitz's death Frank Homes married his widow and took over his studio, eventually passing it to Spitz's son George (known as Loulou) who stamped his photographs "Spitz Curio Store."

Like Sophia Hoare, Spitz exhibited at the 1889 Exposition Universelle de Paris and also won awards. Again, it is likely that Gauguin first became acquainted with Spitz's photography through the exposition and likely encountered the photographer in Tahiti. While several of Spitz's photographs have been attributed as sources for Gauguin's work, the connection between Spitz's image of a figure drinking from a forest waterfall and Gauguin's various versions of Pape Moe (1883-1894) is perhaps the closest.

Sources consulted:

Giles, Keith. "Charles Burton Hoare (1833-c1879), a Mancunian in Paradise,"

Geaneant entry for Marie-Charles Georges Henri Spitz,

Grob Gallery. "Gaugin, Tahiti and Photography."

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