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Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair - Cézanne's Portrait of His Wife


Cézanne and his wife, Marie-Hortense Fiquet, met and eventually married in a painter-model relationship. Cézanne created more than forty portraits of his wife, which had much to do with Cézanne's personality and painting habits. Because Cézanne did not want to have too much contact with people he did not know well, and because he painted very slowly, it was difficult for him to have people who were not friends or relatives to be his models, and there were very few women, so his wife became the best model for his portraits of women.

Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair

Paul Cézanne
Oil on canvas
72.4 x 55.9 cm 
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This early portrait work still reflects the influence of impressionistic art on the painter, and the brushwork and color are very distinct. At this time, Cézanne did not focus entirely on the exploration and study of form, and the perception of nature and objectivity still prevailed.

In this work, the floral details of the background wall, the shape and structure of the red armchair, and the gestures and expressions of the women all show more realistic scenes and the emotional state of the figures themselves, rather than the subjective thinking of the painter. In the later portraits of Madame Cézanne, however, the unnatural expressions are gradually revealed, and the elements, including the human body, were reordered and even distorted to achieve the effect sought by the painter for the structure.

At this time, Cézanne's portrayal of objects had not yet reached a fully self-contained state. The expression of the folds of the skirt and the painting of the back side of the wall both follow basic painting guidelines, especially the line of demarcation between different colors and the lack of a strong sense of contour.

Madame Cézanne's face is influenced by the colors of the wall, dress and armchair, showing the interplay of green, yellow and pink. The artist's overall color palette also shows a quiet, nostalgic mood, with subtle variations of small blocks of color in each section forming the overall harmony of the painting.

Portrait of his wife by Cézanne

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