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Portrait of Cézanne, 1874, 73 × 59.7 cm

When I first laid eyes on this painting, I liked its color and style right away.

Oil Portrait Painting of  Cézanne
Portrait of Cézanne

Though this painting is done in 1874, strangely enough, it gives me a nostalgic feeling that someone is sitting in a barber shop against a poster-covered wall, waiting for his turn. He seems to be in a trance while contemplating something. This man has a tan face and appears chubby and childlike, with big innocent eyes. I'm not sure if this is considered a fantastic portrait painting by any standard, but I find it attractive.

Some people may think this is a rough portrait painting, so there's nothing special to pay attention to. Some people who know a little about oil painting may perceive that this is just an ordinary portrait painting, similar to those found everywhere in the world.

Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro

However, this is a painting of Cézanne by his dear mentor and father-like figure, Camille Pissarro. The portrait hung in Pissarro's studio until his death in 1903.

To understand the story behind this painting, let's go back to 1872. According to Pissarro's son, Cézanne would walk a few miles to join Pissarro at various settings in Pontoise. Though they shared ideas during their work, the younger Cézanne wanted to study the countryside through Pissarro's eyes, being a great admirer of his landscapes from the 1860s.

According to the book "Complete Paintings of Camille Pissarro," this painting is believed to be Pissarro's first portrait of Cézanne and offers a realistic depiction, with no idealistic features. Cézanne is dressed in a humble hat and coat, most likely the same outfit he wore on his painting trips with Pissarro. He appears to sit patiently and willingly for his mentor, his face suggesting friendliness and respect. The crossed hands also indicate a position of comfort.

Behind Cézanne, two satirical newspaper prints were unframed and simply tacked to the wall, with a rural landscape in the lower right. There might be some meaning, so I looked it up and found the answer from the National Gallery, London, with this short description:

"Two political prints show the statesman Adolphe Thiers on the left and the painter Courbet on the right, famous men of the day who both seem to acknowledge Cézanne."

For your information, this painting is currently on display at the National Gallery, London.

Do you find this portrait painting attractive?


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