Having holidayed in Paris in the summer and visited the portraits of Paul Cézanne at the Musée d’Orsay (Paris’ equivalent of the Tate Modern), I can give you an inside scoop on the exhibition which is debuting at the National Gallery in late October. This is the first exhibition entirely devoted to the portraits of Cézanne to cover major parts of the Western world: Paris, Washington and soon, London.
Exhibitions held in the beating heart of city centres are ideal places to surrender yourself to solace, and this is exactly what Cézanne’s portraits encourage you to do. They are calming pieces of artistry and invite you to ponder over the emotions encompassed in each of the portraits by the artist himself.
On the right we see a particular portrait featured in the exhibition: Woman Seated in Blue was painted around the turn of the 20th century and features a solemn looking woman, her outlook juxtaposed with her choice of dress. The vividness noticed in her blue dress and accompanying headpiece is stressed by the varied tones of blue. Blue can either be a very confident and assuring colour, or a despairing and solemn one and this is usually defined by its spectator from their own experiences of the hue. In this instance it can either be seen as a contrast against the woman’s facial expression or a continuance of the despair which seems to loom over her.
This is what is important to appreciate about Cézanne’s work – it is wholly inviting and allows you to conclude for yourself what his portraiture means to you.
Other works include Boy in a Red Waistcoat and Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair, two of Cézanne’s pieces to be shown in the UK for the first time since the 1930s.
The contrast grappled with in Woman Seated in Blue ripples through the rest of the exhibition with each room’s infrastructure reflecting the portraits featured inside. I hope the National Gallery replicates this for Cézanne’s London spectators, adding to the atmosphere that is exuded by each of his portraits.
Cézanne was a largely forgotten yet prominent figure in the art world, his prominence noted by Matisse and Picasso’s hailing of him as “the father of us all”. Let’s remember a man who influenced the movements of Impressionism and Cubism amongst numerable others. You wouldn’t miss a Picasso exhibition, so why miss Cézanne’s?
Click here to book tickets for Cézanne Portraits, set to open at the National Gallery on 26th October.