45 Cézanne Portraits, a Millstone in a Park and a Skull

Paul Cézanne, 1839-1906, French

 

 

All but two of these portraits are from an exhibition organized by the National Portrait Gallery, London, the Musée d’Orsay, Paris and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC in 2017 and 2018

 

 

 

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As noted below

 

 

Should be recalled that Cézanne, attached as he was to the artistic tradition of his native civilization, succeeded nevertheless in overvaulting one of the major constraints of this tradition: without entering into abstraction, he freed painting from the object painted.

Two separate highways came into view when this artist had done.  Both of them heavily trafficked since.

 

Cézanne focused on aspects of what he was painting, analyzed these aspects from various angles and then reproduced the figure or landscape on the canvas to produce, not an abstraction, but images often sculptural.  The abstraction of constituent elements to be reproduced within shapes familiar to us all is at the heart of the overvaulting.

 

As here: a coffee-maker, cup, saucer and teaspoon (with that old, reassuring raised spine missing in modern spoon design) which all reinforce the rectitude and solidity of the woman painted.

 

 

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As noted below

 

The artist was not after an impression but the solidity, the materiality of the thing, landscape or person represented.

Nor is overvaulting le mot juste.  Because it was a long, slow experiment and frustration along the way.  Not least for his wife who left him.

 

There has also been commentary about the painted backgrounds of these portraits. 

There are patterns to make a Matisse shout with joy: drops and ovals and rectangles, amoebic shapes, splotches and blotches, and sinuous folds of curtains aslant.

There are also solid surroundings aslant.

The sympathetic monumentality of The Boys in Red Waistcoats (below) is achieved partly because they are the focus of soft fabric, aslant.

The background of the Coffee-maker Woman (below) would make you dizzy except you are focusing on her and there is nothing dizzy about her. 

This wainscot is also aslant:

 

 

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as noted below

 

All to focus the mind on the real, solid object which these patterns and angles are framing and containing.

 

 

This, like the work of many of the Impressionists, is representational art slipped out of its bounds of socio-economic class also.   Cézanne did not paint portraits for the conventional reasons required by those who could afford to commission portraits. 

This is ‘just’ painting for the sake of resolving problems in the artist’s mind and hand.  That he sometimes did not finish his portraits, that sometimes the process frustrated him to the point of violence to the canvas, is testimony to this.

 

Of the artist’s approximately 1000 paintings, a little fewer than 160 are portraits. 

 

These portraits show the artist’s progression in techniques.

His use of paint laid down with force with a palette and left.  Sometimes smeared on.

 

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As noted below

 

 

Progressing to blocks of colour used to create and hold a form. A form which he has studied and turned around and about and analyzed and then painted.

 

 

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To the use of washes of colour (you wonder if this is watercolour; but it is not) interacting with blocks of colour.  Because, I suppose, nothing about the human body and very little in our natural environment comes in rectangular blocks.

 

DSC04460as noted below

 

And then there is the expression on the faces of those the artist portrayed.  As below.

It would not be correct to say that the artist pays no attention to expressions because facial expressions there are.  But it is that his painting is not about what is as fleeting as an expression. 

 

And in the late, luminous paintings of his gardener, facial expression has been completely subordinated to the lilt and pose and quiet of a whole body in an exuberant and unquiet environment.

 

 

DSC04428As noted below

 

Not impressions but the rock solidity of these sitters in the moment portrayed.

As in the rock solidity of these rocks and millstone in a park.

 

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Millstone in the Park of the Château Noir and detail, 1898-1900, oil on canvas.  Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

 

 

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has left empty the place on the wall from which one – perhaps two – Cézannes  (of his wife) have been loaned somewhere. Nor is there a notice as to why this wall is bare. 

‘It is summer, I thought. ‘They’ have lazed off here.”   But, of course, ‘they’ have done nothing of the sort.  

Whose paintings could replace those of this master of two worlds? 

One the rich legacy he inherited; and the second  of the richest potential which he evolved in a lifetime of work.

“The greatest of us all,” was Monet’s evaluation.  “The father of us all,” said Picasso.

 

Matisse’s homage was to the courage and sustenance which he drew from Cézanne, from a particular painting of bathers which he bought at great price when young. 

Max Beckmann, who did not care for the Impressionists, revered Cézanne

 

And who can doubt the debt of the Nude Descending the Staircase by our master of subversion, Marcel Duchamp, to Cézanne’s methods?   Despite the derogatory things Duchamp said about the Impressionists who were Cézanne‘s colleagues and interlocutors. 

 

 

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Nude Descending a Staircase No. 3, 1916, graphite, pen, black ink, black paint, coloured pencil or crayon, and blue wash on gelatin silver photograph.  Philadelphia Art Museum

 

 

 

A vast potential Cézanne evolved for artists and for us in the way we experience and see ourselves, our world.

 

 

Self Portraits

 

 

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Self-Portrait, 1862-64, oil on canvas, and detail. Private collection on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

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Self-portrait, 1875, oil on canvas, and detail. Musée d’Orsay, Paris on loan to the National Gallery, Washington DC in 2018.

The museum notes that the painting in the back is a reflection in reverse of a painting of the Seine by his studio-mate, Armand Guillaumand.

 

 

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Self-portrait, Rose Ground, 1875, oil on canvas, and detail. Musée d’Orsay on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC in 2018.

  The museum notes that the palette of Camille Pissaro was an influence on Cezanne’s in the early 1870s.

 

 

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Self-portrait, 1880-81, oil on canvas, and detail. On loan from the National Gallery, London to the National Gallery, Washington, DC in 2018.

The museum points to the technique which the artist adopted in the 1880s of applying same-sized patches of paint in parallel and usually diagonally across the canvas.  Visible in the face here.

 

 

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Self-portrait, c.1885, oil on canvas, and detail.  On loan from the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC spring/summer 2018

This painting is based on a photograph.

 

 

 

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Self-portrait with bowler hat, 1885-1886, oil on canvas, and detail . On loan from Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

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Self-Portrait with Beret, 1898-1900, oil on canvas.  Loaned by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

 

Portraits of Family

 

 

 

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The Artist’s Father Reading ‘L’Evenement’, 1866, oil on canvas.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

The artist’s father, a banker, did not want his son to become an artist  and did not encourage him. 

But he sat for this portrait which his son spiced up with a newspaper for which Emile Zola wrote a well-known piece in support of avant-garde artists. On the wall is one of the artist’s works and the door is that of the artist’s own studio.

 

 

 

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The artist’s sister, Marie Cézanne, oil on canvas, 1866-67.  St. Louis Art Museum on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC in 2018

 

 

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Mme. Cézanne (Hortense Fiquet, 1850-1922) Sewing, oil on canvas, 1877.  Nationalmuseum, Stockholm on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC in 2018

 

 

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Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair, c.1877, oil on canvas.  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

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Mme. Cézanne in a Striped Dress, 1883-85, oil on canvas.  Yokohama Museum of Art on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

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Mme. Cézanne in a Red Dress, 1888-90, oil on canvas.  Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel,  Beyeler Collection on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

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Mme. Cézanne in a Red Dress, 1888-90, oil on canvas.  Museu de Arte de Sao Paolo Assis Chateaubriand, Brazil on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC in 2018

 

 

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Mme. Cézanne in a Red Dress, 1888-90, oil on canvas.  Art Institute of Chicago on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

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Mme. Cézanne, 1885-86, oil on canvas.  Musée d’Orsay, Paris on loan to the National Gallery, Washington DC in 2018

 

 

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Mme. Cézanne, 1886-87, oil on canvas.  Musée d’Orsay, Paris on loan to the National Gallery, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

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Mme. Cézanne in Blue, 1886-87, oil on canvas.  The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on loan to the National Gallery, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

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Mme. Cézanne, oil on canvas, 1886-87.  Detroit Institute of Arts on loan to the National Gallery, Washington DC in 2018

 

 

 

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Mme. Cézanne in Conservatory, 1891, oil on canvas.  Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

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The Artist’s Son, oil on canvas, 1881-82.  Musée de l’Orangerie de Paris  on loan to the National Gallery, Washington DC in 2018

 

 

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The Artist’s Son, Paul, 1886/87, oil on canvas.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

The artist doted on his son whom he sketched and painted often. This is the last portrait of his son.

 

 

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Uncle Dominic in smock and blue cap, 1866-67, oil on canvas.  Lent to the National Gallery, Washington DC by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

The artist painted ten portraits of his uncle, sometimes dressed up in costume, during the time frame of this painting.  He built up layer after layer with a palette knife sometimes leaving the paint unmodulated to leave a rough effect like that of a plasterer.

 

Portraits of Others

 

 

 

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Paul Alexis Reading to Emile Zola, oil on canvas, 1869-70 (with light interference).   Museu de Arte de Sao Paolo Assis Chateaubriand, Brazil on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

 

This painting is unfinished.  War broke out between France and Prussia in 1870 and Cezanne fled Paris.

  In this painting, a young Paul Alexis is reading his own work to Emile Zola who had encouraged the younger man to come to Paris and take part in the intellectual and aesthetic ferment which Zola supported and which was centered on the work of the group later labelled as Impressionists, particularly the provocations of Edouard Manet.

 

 

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Anthony Valabrègue, 1870, oil on canvas.  The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

A childhood friend of the artist whose negative opinion of the artist’s portraits was that it seemed that the artist was always trying “to avenge himself for some hidden injury”!

 

 

 

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Antoine-Fortuné Marion, c. 1871, oil on canvas.  Kunstmuseum Basel on loan in 2018 to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

It was visits to the countryside of Provence with this naturalist, a schoolfriend of the artist, to paint and  to collect natural specimens which deeply informed the artist’s love of this particular country.

 

 

 

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Victor Choquet, 1876-77, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the National Gallery of Art in 2018.

The museum’s notes that this was a customs official of modest means who was a passionate defender of the evolving art and himself owned 35 of Cezanne’s works.  Exhibited at the 1877 Impressionist Exhibition, this portrait of M. Choquet was met with much disparagement.

 

 

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Detail of Victor Choquet, 1877, oil on canvas.  Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington in 2018

The museum points out that in this portrait, Cezanne moved to using blocks of pigment to build the composition and paying attention to each part of the composition with this technique.  The focus has moved away from the reproduction of the sitter’s exact likeness to a reproduction of the sitter in his environment.

 

 

 

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Louis Guillaume, 1879-80, oil on canvas.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

A close friend of the artist’s son, Paul.

 

 

 

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Boy in a Red Vest, 1888-90, oil on canvas.  MOMA, NY

The artist made four paintings and two watercolours of this Italian boy posing in a red vest.  There are accounts that this painting was owned first by Claude Monet who described it as “the best picture” he owned. Its painter he said was “the greatest of us all.”

 The museum notes the monumentality of this figure achieved by use of short brushstrokes and a positioning against a theatrical, triangular dark curtain.

 

 

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Boy in a Red Waistcoat, oil on canvas. 1888-90.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

 

 

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Man with Pipe, 1891-96, oil on canvas.  The Samuel Courtauld Trust, London, on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

 

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Detail of Old Woman with a Rosary, 1895-96, oil on canvas.  National Gallery, London on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC in 2018. 

The artist depicts a former servant from Aix in a traditional dress from Provence.

 

 

 

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Girl with a Doll, oil on canvas, 1895.  Private collection on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

 

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Woman with a Coffee-maker, 1895, oil on canvas.  Musée d’Orsay on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

 

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Gustave Geffroy, 1895-96, oil on canvas.  Musée d’Orsay, Paris on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018  

Gustave Geffroy, journalist, art critic and novelist, defended Cézanne’s work in a widely read article in 1894 which began the widespread appreciation of the artist’s work. 

The scene is the artist’s study.  The statuette is a Rodin.  The energy and focus of the young man is apparent even though Cézanne, growing frustrated, never completed the sitter’s face.

 

 

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Child in a Straw Hat, 1896, oil on canvas.  Los Angeles County Museum of Art on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

 

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Man in a Blue Smock, oil on canvas, c. 1897.  Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth on loan to the National Gallery of Art in 2018

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Ambroise Voillard, 1899, oil on canvas.  Petit Palais, Musée de Beaux Arts de Paris on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

The gallerist and art dealer gave the artist his first solo show in 1895.  A celebrated relationshp.  The artist considered this portrait unfinished even though the gallerist had sat for it 115 times.

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Alfred Hauge, 1899, oil on canvas.  Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018.

  The artist’s frustration with this work resulted in his slashing it with a knife.  His son had it repaired but the artist never completed work on it.

 

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Man with Crossed Arms, c.1899, oil on canvas.  Solomon R. Guggenheim, NY on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

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Portrait of a Woman, c. 1900, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

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The Gardener Vallier, 1902-06, oil on canvas.  Private collection on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

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The Gardener Vallier, 1905-06, oil on canvas.  The Tate, London on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

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Seated Man, 1905-06, oil on canvas.  Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2018

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Portrait of a Peasant, 1904-06, oil on canvas.  National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa on loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC in 2018

 

 

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Still Life With Skull, 1885, oil on canvas.  White House Collection, Washington, DC. 

The museum notes that the artist completed several paintings especially towards the end of his life with the motif of a skull; a recall of a Renaissance and baroque traditions of vanitas paintings of symbolic meaning.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

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