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“Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair” by Paul Cézanne

"Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair" by Paul Cézanne

“Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair” by Paul Cézanne

“Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair” by Paul Cézanne is a portrait of the artist’s wife. Cézanne was a methodical and meticulous 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 colored paint strokes. The subject, Marie-Hortense Fiquet Cézanne (1850 – 1922), was a former artist’s model who met Cézanne about 1869; they had a son and later married. Paul Cézanne painted 27 portraits, mostly in oil of her, and she became his most-painted model.

Marie-Hortense Fiquet met Cézanne at a Paris art school. The art school was used to meet each other and to paint the models who worked there. Fiquet’s primary job was as a bookseller and bookbinder, but she combined this with part-time work as a model. They started a relationship; however, Cézanne was afraid of offending his father, a well-to-do banker, and to not compromise his allowance, he went to great lengths to hide his liaison with Fiquet.

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. Despite their complicated relationship, many of the paintings by Cézanne of his wife attests to her compelling role in the artist’s life and artistic development. Cézanne said,

“I want to make of Impressionism an art as solid as that of the museums.”

Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne was a Post-Impressionist painter who laid the foundations in the transition from the 19th-century Impressionism to the 20th century’s Cubism. Both Matisse and Picasso have remarked that Cézanne “is the father of us all.” Cézanne’s art is characterized by repetitive, exploratory small brushstrokes that build up to form complex color fields, demonstrating his intense study of his subjects.

Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair

  • Title:                        Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair
  • Artist:                       Paul Cézanne
  • Year:                        1877
  • Medium:                  Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions             Height: 72.5 cm (28.5 in); Width: 56 cm (22 in)
  • Museum:                 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Paul Cézanne

A Tour of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Reflections

  • What does this portrait tell us about how Cézanne viewed his wife?

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

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Photo Credit: Paul Cézanne [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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