Tag Archive for 'Paul Cézanne'

Open hands – Cézanne at the Met


Throughout his life, Paul Cézanne nurtured an ambition to paint figure compositions in the renaissance tradition. At various points in his career he thus attempted to populate his otherwise open landscapes with anonymous, lumpy nudes, often bathing. There is something uncomfortable, something unresolved, about these paintings — they seem an intellectual aspiration toward a pastoral that was beyond him, not to mention his time.

His shyness only complicated matters — not since his years as a student had he spent any sustained time drawing from the nude, and he was unwilling to hire models to pose for him. Late in life however, in the early 1890s, he began paying the gardeners and hired hands at his estate in Aix-en-Provence to sit for his pictures. The result was a number of monumental portraits and group compositions of card-playing peasants that arguably more than any other group of works in his oeuvre succeeded in capturing the grandeur of his great historical paragons.

A small, exquisite exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, organised in collaboration with the Courtauld Gallery in London where I saw it in the fall, focuses on these pictures. Continue reading ‘Open hands – Cézanne at the Met’