Musée d’Orsay | Portraits de Cézanne

Musée d’Orsay | Portraits de Cézanne

Location Musée d’Orsay, 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur 75007 Paris France

Opening hours 9:30 – 18:00 from Tuesday to Wednesday and from Friday to Sunday, 9:30 – 21:45 on Thursdays, closed on Mondays, from 13 June 2017 to 24 September 2017

General curator John Elderfield, independant curator and art historian

Curator Xavier Rey, Director of the museums of Marseille

Organisers the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; the National Portrait Gallery, London; the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition also presented in
London, National Portrait Gallery, from 26 October 2017 to 11 February 2018
Washington, National Gallery of Art, from 25 March to 1st July 2018

I hadn’t paid special attention to the portraits of Paul Cézanne until this exhibition. During his career, though, he has painted almost 200 portraits, among which we can see himself. his wife, his family, and his friends.

The first was a self-portrait based on a photo. Honestly, it scared me at first look. There is no doubt that with the strokes of bright red colour, the way the eyes stare, the greenish grey shade of the visage, and the dark background, the painting says much more than the photo.

Cézanne painted people with efficiency and simplicity, but always getting the spirit of them, giving his portraits an interesting comical touch. The wide strokes and thick paints, the mixture and contrast of colours, the relations between the figure and its environment, the dark and clear contours, these are the characteristics that appear in most of his oil portraits.

My personal favourites also include a sketch of a bust of a man. It’s a very quick sketch, not so detailed, nevertheless precise and clean. It’s the same with his paintings, be it portraits, still lives, or landscapes. They are not as detailed as classical works; only the most vivid were kept.

The exhibition is not a very large one, but is indeed a great collection of carefully selected portraits by Cézanne. A chronology of  events throughout his lifetime is also presented, like at the exhibition of Frédéric Bazille, but in the middle instead of the end. With this chronology, and as you think about all his paintings, it can be seen how his artworks changed through time, while some things still stayed the same.

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