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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906) was a Post-Impressionist painter who laid the foundations in the transition from the 19th-century Impressionism to the 20th century’s Cubism. Cézanne’s often repetitive, exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and recognisable. He used planes of colour and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields.

Both Matisse and Picasso have remarked that Cézanne “is the father of us all.” Cézanne’s art is characterised by repetitive, exploratory small brushstrokes that build up to form complex colour fields, demonstrating his intense study of his subjects.

A Tour of Paul Cézanne’s Masterpieces

  • The Card Players (Barnes Foundation)
    • “The Card Players” by Paul Cézanne is one in a series of five oil paintings by the French Post-Impressionist artist painted during Cézanne’s final periods in the early 1890s. This version is the largest version and the most complex of the series. It is composed of five figures, featuring three card players at the forefront, seated at a table, with two spectators behind. It has been speculated that Cézanne added the spectators to give depth to the painting. There is tension in the way the various players are contrasted by colour, light and shadow, the shape of hats and the clothing all representing confrontation through opposites. Museum: The Barnes Foundation
  • The Card Players (Courtauld Gallery)
    • Cézanne’s created many preparatory works for the Card Players paintings, which indicates his commitment to this series of paintings. Rather than posing his players as group playing cards, Cézanne made studies of them individually and only brought them together in his paintings. Many different farm workers came to sit for him throughout this project, often smoking their clay pipes. Cézanne experimented with his compositions, striving to express the essence of these farm workers and their traditional card game. This project resulted in five closely related paintings of different sizes showing men seated at a rustic table playing cards. Museum: Courtauld Gallery
  • The Card Players (MET)
    • This version is composed of four figures, featuring three card players at the forefront, seated at a table, with one spectator behind. It has been speculated that Cézanne added the spectator and the pipes on the wall to give depth to the painting. There is tension in the way the various players are contrasted by colour, light and shadow, the shape of hats and the clothing all representing confrontation through opposites. Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
  • Madame Cézanne in the Conservatory
    • “Madame Cézanne in the Conservatory” by Paul Cézanne is an unfinished portrait of the artist’s wife. This painting shows Cézanne’s working method. Cézanne placed the head slightly off-centre, between a tree and a plant, and then proceeded to build up a pyramidal composition, brushstroke by brushstroke. The subject, Marie-Hortense Fiquet Cézanne (1850 – 1922) was a former artist’s model, who met Cézanne about 1869; they had a son in 1872, and later married. Paul Cézanne painted 27 portraits, mostly in oil of her and she became his most-painted model. Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET and Met Breuer
  • Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress
    • “Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress” by Paul Cézanne is a portrait of the artist’s wife wearing a shawl-collared red dress seated in a high-backed yellow chair. Madame Cézanne is placed in a spatially complex composition which includes a mirror over the fireplace on the left and a richly coloured heavy cloth on the right. The subject, Marie-Hortense Fiquet Cézanne (1850 – 1922) was a former artist’s model, who met Cézanne about 1869; they had a son in 1872, and later married. Paul Cézanne painted 27 portraits, mostly in oil of her and she became his most-painted model. Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
  • Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair
    • “Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair” by Paul Cézanne is a portrait of the artist’s wife. Cézanne was a methodical and painstaking worker who required a model to pose with great patience for extended periods. This early portrait of Madame Cézanne shows her dominating a canvas built up with many small blocks of subtly varied coloured paint strokes. Fiquet and Cézanne eventually married. However, Fiquet was to live separately from her husband for much of their married life, and they later separated. The psychological distance between husband and wife appears to be reflected in her portraits where Cézanne gives the impression of her being distant and self-absorbed. Museum: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Bathers (The National Gallery, London)
    • Bathers (Baigneuses) by Paul Cézanne is a reinterpreting of a historical tradition of painting nude figures in the landscape by famous artists such as Titian and Poussin. Historically artists took inspiration from classical myths, Cézanne, however, was not depicting a mythological story he was more concerned with the harmony of the figures to the landscape. When this painting was exhibited in 1907, it became an inspiration for Picasso, Matisse and other artists who were exploring and developing new art movements. ‘Bathers’ is reminiscent of earlier artists works and comparisons can be made with more modern works such as Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Museum: The National Gallery, London
  • The Large Bathers (Philadelphia Museum of Art)
    • This painting is the largest of a series of Bather paintings created by Cézanne towards the end of his life, and with each successive version of the Bathers, Cézanne moved further away from the traditional paintings, intentionally creating artworks for an audience more interested in new forms of art. Cézanne wanted to pave the way for future artists to disregard current trends and he focused on painting pieces that imbued a timeless quality to his work. The abstract nude forms are in symmetry to the triangular and rounded patterns of the trees reminiscent of landscapes and still-life paintings. Cézanne worked on this painting for seven years, and it remained unfinished, he claimed: “I want to make of Impressionism an art as solid as that of the museums.” Museum: Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Bathers by Paul Cézanne (Art Institute of Chicago)
    • Bathers by Paul Cézanne is a reinterpreting of a historical tradition of painting nude figures in the landscape by famous artists such as Titian and Poussin. Historically artists took inspiration from classical myths, Cézanne, however, was not depicting a mythological story he was more concerned with the harmony of the figures to the landscape. When this painting was exhibited in 1907, it became an inspiration for Picasso, Matisse and other artists who were exploring and developing new art movements. Museum: Art Institute of Chicago

Paul Cézanne

Reflections

  • What do these paintings tell us about how Cézanne viewed art?

A Tour of the Artists and their Art

Paul Cézanne Quotes

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“A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.”

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“Shadow is a colour as light is, but less brilliant; light and shadow are only the relations of two tones.”

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“Painting from nature is not copying the object; it realises one’s sensations.”

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“For an Impressionist to paint from nature is not to paint the subject, but to realise sensations.”

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“The world doesn’t understand me, and I don’t understand the world, that’s why I’ve withdrawn from it.”

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“Don’t be an art critic. Paint. There lies salvation.”

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“The most seductive thing about art is the personality of the artist himself.”

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“Genius is the ability to renew one’s emotions in daily experience.”

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“When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God made an object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art.”

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“With an apple, I will astonish Paris.”

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“Keep good company – that is, go to the Louvre.”

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“An art which isn’t based on feeling isn’t an art at all.”

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“We live in a rainbow of chaos.”

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“I am old and ill, and I have sworn to die painting.”

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“Art is a harmony parallel with nature.”

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“I must be more sensible and realise that at my age, illusions are hardly permitted and they will always destroy me.”

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“The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.”

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“A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.”
– Paul Cézanne

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Photo Credit: Paul Cézanne [Public domain]

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