“Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress” by Paul Cézanne
“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.
Marie-Hortense Fiquet met Cézanne at a Paris art school in which was used by some artists as a place 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 conceal 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, a large number of paintings by Cézanne of his wife attests to her compelling role in the artist’s life and artistic development.
Paul Cézanne was a Post-Impressionist painter who laid the foundations of 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 characterised by repetitive, exploratory small brushstrokes that build up to form complex colour fields, demonstrating his intense study of his subjects.
- What does this portrait tell us about how Cézanne viewed his wife?
- How revealing is this portrait of the Madame Cézanne?
- Does Madame Cézanne appear happy? Is there any tenderness in either her expression or his depiction of her?
- Did Cézanne make her sit for days and days as he experimented with his style of painting? So is this painting reflective of his obsession?
Explore European Paintings in the MET
- “Pygmalion and Galatea” by Jean-Léon
- “Saint Jerome as Scholar” by El Greco
- “Portrait of Juan de Pareja” by Diego Velázquez
- “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench” by Claude Monet
- “View of Toledo” by El Greco
- “The Musicians” by Caravaggio
- “The Death of Socrates” by Jacques-Louis David
- “The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
- “Young Woman Drawing” by Marie-Denise Villers
- “The Grand Canal, Venice” by J. M. W. Turner
- “The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog)” by Claude Monet
- “Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress” by Paul Cézanne
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Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress
- Title: Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress
- Artist: Paul Cézanne
- Year: 1890
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: Height: 116.6 cm (45.9 in); Width: 89.5 cm (35.2 in)
- Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
- Name: Paul Cézanne
- Born: 1839 – Aix-en-Provence, France
- Died: 1906 (aged 67) – Aix-en-Provence, France
- Nationality: French
- Movement: Post-Impressionism
“Of course one should not drink much, but often.”
– Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Photo Credit: Paul Cézanne [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons