Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Card Players” by Paul Cézanne (MET)

“The Card Players” by Paul Cézanne

“The Card Players” by Paul Cézanne

“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 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.

Cézanne’s created many preparatory works for the Card Players paintings, which indicates his commitment to this series of pictures. Rather than posing his players in 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 over the period of 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. One version of The Card Players was sold in 2011 to the Royal Family of Qatar for a price variously estimated at over $250 million making it the third or fourth most expensive work of art ever sold.

Paul Cézanne

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.


  • Cézanne produced a significant number of studies and preparatory drawings for the “Card Players” series. Yet some people believe that the best art needs to be spontaneous. What do you think?
  • The “Card Players” series consists of five paintings in which each version varies in size, the number of players, and the setting in which the game takes place. What was Cézanne trying to explore with this subject?
  • Cézanne’s portraits in this series lack drama, narrative, and characterisation. Why are they highly regarded and valuable?

The Card Players

  • Title:                         The Card Players
  • Artist:                       Paul Cézanne
  • Year:                         1890 – 1892
  • Medium:                  Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions             65 × 81 cm (25.5 × 31.8 in)
  • Museum:                  Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Paul Cézanne

  • Name:                   Paul Cézanne
  • Born:                     1839 – Aix-en-Provence, France
  • Died:                     1906 (aged 67) – Aix-en-Provence, France
  • Nationality:           French
  • Movement:           Post-Impressionism

Explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art

MET European Paintings Collection

MET Modern and Contemporary Art Collection

MET Greek and Roman Art Collection

MET Egyptian Art Collection

MET Asian Art Collection

MET Ancient Near Eastern Art Collection

MET American Wing Collection

MET Islamic Art Collection

MET Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas Collection

MET European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Collection

MET Medieval Art Collection

MET Drawings and Prints Collection

MET Costume Institute Collection

MET Arms and Armor Collection

MET Photograph Collection

MET Musical Instrument Collection

Explore the MET


“Of course one should not drink much, but often.”
– Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


Photo Credit: Paul Cézanne [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons