Thursday 29 January 2015

MADAME CEZANNE at the Met, New York 

Who would be an artist's model, much less his wife! Madame Cezanne has suffered more than most. This exhibition + excellent book tries to put the record straight, but with so little documented fact, it's hard going. 

Cezanne painted 29 known portraits of his long suffering Hortense Fiquet over 30+ years. They met in Paris in 1869, she 19; he 30; their son born 1872. They eventually married in 1886 after great subterfuge, hiding from his rich authoritarian banker father who provided the then unsuccessful artist with a monthly allowance. The deception came to light by his father opening his son's mail!

They rarely lived in the same home - Cezanne preferred to live with his parents & sisters - yet 50 drawings of Hortense, reading, sewing, sleeping, dozing, remain. His family never accepted her, yet this plain, staunch, loyal woman sat by the hour, by the day, the week, motionless as an apple! 
Matisse admired Cezanne and bought several of his pictures including this one (see below) of the young Hortense in blue which he hung in his main room.
Cezanne was notoriously bad tempered & a slow, slow worker. Sitting for her husband must have tested her patience many times. The portraits on show here attest to her stoicism under Cezanne's rigorous intensity of gaze. 
The early portraits, from the 1870s, show a young figure intent on her sewing, averting her eyes, often dressed in blue. As time went by her gaze focuses steadily on the painter, more resolute, less demure. 
A series of four oils from 1888-90, brought together from Basel, Sao Paolo & Chicago show Hortense in a heavy red dress sitting on a yellow chair, reserved, impassive but determined. Formal portraits all, the last a majestic essay in Cezanne's celebrated nuanced touches of colour. Cezanne's great passion was always his art, never his wife but she bravely played her part - as these amazing portraits demonstrate.  

Met's curator Dita Amory welcoming Cezanne scholars to her wonderful exhibition devoted to Hortense Fiquet, aka Madame Cz., Thanks Phyllis for pix. 
Lots of new insights emerging from this extraordinary survey
Thanks also John Ferry for Link to…/no…/2014/madame-cezanne-catalogue

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