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An image of recto: Émile Zola reading
verso: Head of Paul Cézanne fils by Paul Cézanne
Alternate image of recto: Émile Zola reading
verso: Head of Paul Cézanne fils by Paul Cézanne Alternate image of recto: Émile Zola reading
verso: Head of Paul Cézanne fils by Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne

(France 19 Jan 1839 – 22 Oct 1906)

Title
recto: Émile Zola reading verso: Head of Paul Cézanne fils
Year
recto 1881-1884
verso 1880-1883
Media category
Drawing
Materials used
pencil
Dimensions

21.8 x 12.5 cm sheet

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Credit
Purchased with funds provided by Margaret Olley 2003
Accession number
268.2003
Location
Not on display
Further information

Cézanne's best friend during his boyhood was Emile Zola, who, after 1877, became the most famous living novelist in France. With the huge success of his novel, 'L'Assommoir', he bought himself a luxurious house on the Seine at Médan, west of Paris. Cézanne would periodically visit Zola there, whether as a houseguest or as a tenant of rented accommodation nearby.

Zola had distinguished himself during the 1860s as an art critic whose sympathies lay with the non-conformist, realist painters, particularly Courbet and Manet. Given pride of place at Zola's house at Médun was Manet's magnificent 'Portrait of Emile Zola' 1868. For Cézanne it represented the pinnacle of excellence in portraiture. Yet, Cézanne never had the opportunity to paint something which would rival Manet's portrait of Zola. (Cézanne's portrait of Gustave Geoffroy painted in 1895-96 can be assumed to be his most ambitious response).

Cézanne did however make at least five intense pencil sketches of Zola in which the great writer is shown absorbed in thought, sitting at his desk. Other versions are in the Leigh Block Collection, Chicago, and three were held by Adrien Chappuis. Cézanne frequented Zola's house between 1879 and 1886, and Wayne Andersen has narrowed the dating of these sheets to around 1882 and 1883.

Cézanne's sense of pictorial architecture, his faculty of inventing monumental forms and fitting these into a scrupulously balanced mise-en-page is evident even in the early stages of his formulation of a sketch. Already, the curvilinear elements of Zola's head are braced against the horizontal and vertical axes which will resolve their relationship to the edges of the sketchbook leaf.

The verso of the sheet is in marked contrast. It depicts the open-faced, luminous gaze of a young boy. The sitter is Cézanne's son, Paul, and a favourite subject of his doting father. There are more than 100 such studies documenting the growth of the boy from infancy to adolescence. The present sheet shows Paul, probably between the ages of 8 and 10, which would accord with the dating given by Andersen.

Bibliography (11)

J. Adhémar, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 'Le cabinet de travail de Zola', Paris, Jul 1960, 285.

Wayne Andersen, Cézanne's portrait drawings, Cambridge, 1970, 26, 28, 32, 154 (illus.), 215 (illus.). no. 238 (a) dated 1882-3 and 155 (b) dated circa 1883

Adrien Chappuis, Dessins de Paul Cézanne, Paris, 1938, (illus.). no. 38, illustration is of (a)

Adrien Chappuis, The drawings of Paul Cézanne: a catalogue raisonné, London, 1973, vol. 1: 175, 194; vol. 2: (illus.). cat.no. 622 (a) and 732 (b)

Kunsthalle Tübingen, Paul Cézanne, Köln, 1978, 144 (illus.). cat.no. 49, illustration is of (a)

Musée de L'Orangerie, Cézanne, Paris, 1936. cat.no. 163

Alfred Neumeyer (Editor), Cézanne drawings, New York, 1958. no. 39, illustration is of (b), dated 1880-82

Peter Raissis, Look, 'Auction coup', pg. 28-29, Newtown, Dec 2003-Jan 2004, 28 (illus.), 29 (illus.). illustration on page 28 is of (b) and page 29 is of (a)

T. Reff, The Burlington Magazine, 'Cézanne drawings 1875-85', London, May 1959, 176.

The Phillips Collection, Cézanne: an exhibition in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Phillips Collection, Boston, 1971, (illus.). cat.no. 69

Lionello Venturi, Cézanne, son art, son oeuvre, Paris, 1936, 303-7. no. 1284 (a and b)

Exhibition history (3)

Cézanne, Musée de L'Orangerie, Paris, May 1936–Oct 1936

Cézanne: an exhibition in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Phillips Collection:

Paul Cézanne, das zeichnerische Werk, Kunsthalle Tübingen, Germany, 21 Oct 1978–31 Dec 1978