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“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. 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 color, 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 throughout this project, often smoking their clay pipes. Cézanne experimented with his compositions, striving to express the essence of these farmworkers 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 characterized by repetitive, exploratory small brushstrokes that build up to form complex color fields, demonstrating his intense study of his subjects.

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

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  • 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 characterization. Why are they highly regarded and valuable?


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


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

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