A Telegraph article sheds light on a Cortauld Institute study of Cezanne’s “Card Players.” The Institute has placed three of the five versions of the painting together, as well as preliminary sketches, drawings of the models, and another Cezanne masterpiece, “Man with a Pipe.” The small exhibition was designed to allow a behind the scenes look into Cezanne’s artistic process. Says the Telegraph:
Although it isn’t a big show, we emerge more aware than ever of the complexity of Cézanne’s art, but no nearer to penetrating the enigma of Cézanne himself… Moving from picture to picture, we can see how he corrects and strengthens perceived weaknesses, as in each attempt he tries to find monumentality, simplicity and pictorial unity.
During the process, Cezanne realized something was amiss in his original plan. He eventually decided that the number of figures needed to be reduced from three to two. Viewers can see this change in the exhibition. The author of the article theorizes that Cezanne’s goal in the painting was to move away from impressionistic landscapes and show genre scenes, yet retain the same style that made him singular as a painter. The exhibition information the Cortauld Institute provides has this to say about the paintings:
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Cézanne’s card player and peasant works is that their evocation of unchanging traditions was achieved by pushing the boundaries of painting in radical new directions. Cézanne painted freely and inventively, rendering his peasants
through a vibrant patchwork of brushstrokes which animates the surface of the paintings.
I am always exceedingly grateful for the work of institutions such as the Cortauld for providing wonderful learning experiences and continuing research. It’s a shame I don’t live in London to go see this great little exhibition!