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Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)

Madame Cézanne au fauteuil jaune

Paul Cézanne (1839-1906)
Madame Cézanne au fauteuil jaune
oil on canvas
31 5/8 x 25 3/8 in. (80.4 x 64.4 cm.)
Painted in 1888-1890
Ambroise Vollard, Paris?
Paul Cassirer, Berlin
Lucie Ceconi, Berlin
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris
Moderne Galerie (Heinrich Thannhauser), Munich
H. Pollak, Frankfurt
Galerie Thannhauser, Lucerne and Paul Rosenberg, Paris
Adolph Lewisohn, New York
Samuel A. Lewisohn, New York
Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York
Millicent Rogers, New York
Peter A. Salm, New York (acquired from the above in 1953)
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above in 1955)
Acquired from the above by the late owners on Jan. 3, 1956
G. Biermann, "Gemälde der Modernen Galerie Thannhauser in München," Der Cicerone, 1913, p. 322, no. 15 (illustrated, p. 320, pl. 15)
W. Hausenstein, Katalog der Modernen Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser, München, Munich, 1916, pp. XVII and XXIX (illustrated, pl. 31)
J. Meier-Graefe, Cézanne und sein Kreis, Munich, 1922, p. 166
F. Watson, "The Adolph Lewisohn Collection," The Arts, July, 1926, p. 34 (illustrated)
S. Bourgeois, The Adolph Lewisohn Collection of Modern French Paintings and Sculpture, New York, 1928, pp. vii and 180 (illustrated, p. 181)
S. Bourgeois and W. George, "The French Paintings of the XIX and XX Centuries in the Adolph and Samuel Lewisohn Collection," Formes, 1932, p. 305 (illustrated, between pp. 302 and 303)
R.H. Wilenski, French Painting, Boston, 1931, p. 309
R. Flint, "Gauguin, Cézanne, and Redon Shown at Durand-Ruel," The Art News, March 26, 1932, pp. 5 and 7
S. Cheney, Expressionism in Art, New York, 1934, p. xix, no. 122 (illustrated, p. 251)
L. Venturi, Cézanne, son art, son oeuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, pp. 188-189, no. 571 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 183)
New York Times, June 27, 1937
S. Lewisohn, "Personalities Past and Present," Art News Annual, 1939, p. 69 (illustrated)
A.M. Frankfurter, "Master Paintings & Drawings of Six Centuries at the Golden Gate," Art News, July 13, 1940, p. 11 (illustrated)
A. Ozenfant, Arts--Spectacles, April 18, 1947, p. 1 (illustrated)
J. Carpenter, "Cézanne and Tradition," Art Bulletin, Sept., 1951, p. 179 (illustrated, p. 182)
"Circulating Exhibitions, 1931-1954," The Museum of Modern Art Bulletin, summer, 1954, pp. 6 and 21
L. Gowing, "Notes on the Development of Cézanne," Burlington Magazine, June, 1956
D. Cooper, "Cézanne's Chronology," Burlington Magazine, Dec., 1956
C. Sterling and M. Salinger, French Paintings, A Catalogue of the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1967, vol. III (XIX-XX Centuries), p. 111
S. Orienti, L'opera completa di Cézanne, Milan, 1970, p. 112, no. 571 (illustrated)
The Frances and John L. Loeb Collection, London, 1982, no. 26 (illustrated in color)
J. Rewald, Cézanne, A Biography, New York, 1986, p. 196 (illustrated)
J.H. Rubin, Manet's Silence and the Poetics of Bouquets, Cambridge, 1994, p. 216 (illustrated, fig. 94)
J.J. Rishel, "Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair," in exh. cat., Cézanne, Grand Palais, Paris, 1995-1996, p. 400 (illustrated, fig. 1)
J. Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1996, vol. I, p. 421, no. 651 (illustrated, vol. II, p. 220)
Munich, Moderne Galerie (Heinrich Thannhauser), 1912, no. 4
Paris, Quai Rive-Neuve, Salon de Mai, May, 1912, no. 1 (illustrated)
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Summer Exhibition, June-Sept., 1930, no. 21
Detroit, Institute of Arts, Modern French Painting, May-June, 1931, p. 13, no. 16 (illustrated, p. 15)
New York, Durand-Ruel Galleries, Paintings by Cézanne, Gauguin and Redon, March-April, 1932, no. 3
Princeton, University Art Museum, Nov., 1934-June, 1935
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Summer Exhibition, June-Sept., 1935
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Summer Exhibition: Paintings and Sculpture from the Museum Collection and on Loan, June-Sept., 1937
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Great Portraits from Impressionism to Modernism, March, 1938, p. 21, no. 5
San Francisco, Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate International Exhibition, 1940, p. 17, no. 239 (illustrated, p. 80)
Detroit, Institute of Arts, The Age of Impressionism and Objective Realism, May-June, 1940, no. 5
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1945
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Cézanne, March-April, 1947, p. 56, no. 49 (illustrated, p. 52)
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Six Masters of Post-Impressionism, April-May, 1948, p. 17, no. 7 (illustrated, p. 24)
Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, Cézanne, Aug.-Sept., 1954, no. 47 (illustrated, pl. VII). The exhibition traveled to London, Tate Gallery, Sept.-Oct., 1954.
Oslo, Kunstnerforbundet, 1954, no. 20 (illustrated)
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Summer Loan Exhibition, July-Sept., 1958, no. 29
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Cézanne, Nov.-Dec., 1959, no. 35 (illustrated)
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Paintings from Private Collections, Summer Loan Exhibition, July-Sept., 1961, p. 3, no. 14
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Paintings from Private Collections, Summer Loan Exhibition, July-Sept., 1962, p. 2, no. 10
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Paintings from Private Collections, Summer Loan Exhibition, July-Sept., 1963, p. 1, no. 9
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Summer Loan Exhibition, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture from Private Collections, July-Sept., 1966, p. 3, no. 26
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Collects: Paintings, Watercolors and Sculpture from Private Collections, July-Sept., 1968, p. 8., no. 30

Lot Essay

Over the course of a long relationship, Cézanne produced twenty-seven oil portraits of his wife in addition to numerous works on paper. Cézanne met Hortense Fiquet, a nineteen-year-old artist's model, in 1869, but did not marry her until 1886. In 1872 Hortense gave birth to the couple's only son, Paul. Cézanne kept his relationship with the young woman a secret from his father. When Louis-Auguste Cézanne learned about his son's liaison with Hortense and the existence of an illegitimate child, he threatened to cut off Cézanne's allowance.

Not much is known about Hortense Fiquet. Of the twenty-seven oil portraits which Cézanne executed between 1872 and 1891-1892, approximately fifteen depict her in an armchair--motionless and silent. In the present picture, Hortense wears a casual red housedress with a shawl collar. Arms folded in her lap, she is seated in a high-backed chair with floral upholstery, an object of seventeenth-century design that had become a staple of French bourgeois households. Monumental and composed, Madame Cézanne au fauteuil jaune is a portrait of quiet domesticity.

Painted in the Paris apartment at 15, quai d'Anjou that Cézanne rented for his family between 1888 and 1890, the present picture is one of four closely related portraits (figs. 1-3). Of these, the painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (fig. 1), has the most elaborate composition, while the version in The Art Institute of Chicago (fig. 2) most closely replicates the structure and disposition of the present painting. A fourth version, in the Museo de Arts, São Paulo (fig. 3), depicts Madame Cézanne wearing the same red housedress, but the wainscoting has been eliminated and the armchair has been replaced by a stool or ottoman. As in the Metropolitan Museum painting, Hortense is shown in the So Paulo version holding a flower, whereas her hands are clasped in the present picture and the Chicago one.

Madame Cézanne au fauteuil jaune has a prestigious provenance. A work entitled Portrait de femme assise sur un fauteuil jaune, corresponding in size to the present picture, is indexed in Ambroise Vollard's stockbook. The picture subsequently passed to Paul Cassirer in Berlin and to Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris, before entering the collection of the Moderne Galerie [Heinrich Thannhauser] in Munich. In his introduction to the catalogue of that collection, the critic Wilhelm Hausenstein wrote:

The visitor who questions everything had for a long time the opportunity to see in this gallery a picture which belongs--for those who are sensitive--to the most extraordinary works of modern painting: the red woman by Cézanne. It is possible that Picasso's subsequent pictures are nothing but the bared skeleton and nervous system of a painterly structure by Cézanne. However this may be: it is certain that this portrait of his wife is the most delicious blossom of his sensuous as well as transcendental art which, from the point of view of the present, we can hope for. To many painters in Munich and others interested in art, this picture of a red woman--Cézanne's woman--was like a Madonna, the goal for pilgrims. (W. Hausenstein, op. cit., p. 31)

The reference to Picasso is particulary apt, as the picture was eventually handled by Paul Rosenberg, the Spanish artist's dealer in Paris. More importantly, Picasso looked for inspiration to another painting of Madame Cézanne (Rewald, no. 606; Foundation E.G. Bührle, Zurich) in the collection of Gertrude and Leo Stein as he worked on his own portrait of the young author (fig. 4). In the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas Stein recounts that she and Leo:

...told Vollard that they wanted to buy a Cézanne portrait. In those days practically no big Cézanne portraits had been sold. Vollard owned almost all of them. He was enormously pleased with their decision... There were about eight to choose from and the decision was difficult. They had often to go and refresh themselves with honey cakes at Fouquet's. Finally they narrowed the choice down to two, a portrait of a man and a portrait of a woman...and finally they chose the portrait of the woman.

Vollard said that of course ordinarily a portrait of a woman always is more expensive than a portrait of a man but, said he, looking at the picture very carefully, I suppose with Cézanne it does not make any difference.

This notion of Cézanne's indifference to his sitters has remained a persistent trope in the literature, from Stein's day to our own. Speaking of the Metropolitan Museum's Portrait de Madame Cézanne, for example, Roger Fry commented in 1927: "The transposition of all the data of nature into values of plastic colour is here complete. The result is as far from the scene it describes as music. There is no inducement to the mind to retrace the steps the artist has taken and to reconstruct from his image the actual woman posing in her salon. We remain too completely held in the enchantment of this deep harmony" (R. Fry, Cézanne, A Study of his Development, London, 1927, p. 69). In this reading, the artist's concern with formal values completely overshadows any kind of emotional or psychological investment in the figures he portrays, including his own wife!

Cézanne may have had a hand in perpetuating this myth, describing his wife on one occasion as frivolous and intellectually vacant: "My wife likes only Switzerland and lemonade" (A. Van Buren, "Madame Cézanne's Fashions and the Dates of her Portraits," The Art Quarterly, 1966 (no. 2), p. 116). Comments like this have in turn given rise to considerable speculation concerning the artist's ambivalence and even hostility towards women in general. The view that Cézanne portrayed his wife with the same cool detachment with which he ostensibly approached still-life--an interpretation that Meyer Schapiro dispelled many years ago--is particularly unfortunate, as it denies the delicate balance of reasoned objectivity and sensitive engagement that characterizes these portraits as a group. Indeed, this balance is implicit in the formal rhythm of the painting, which is orchestrated around the subtle play of movement within the containing structure of a grid. As Richard Brettell describes the present picture and the Chicago one:

The two smaller versions of Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Armchair seem to have been exercises in the use of the three primary colors--the red of the dress, the yellow of the chair, and the blue of the wall. In each, Madame Cézanne's face has been painted with myriad hues, but the purple-red, yellow, and blue come together in small patches around the mouth. The composition has been organized into a series of horizontal and vertical lines and ovals. The lines, set on a diagonal bias, are echoed in the careful arrangement in the features and shadow on the face. The oval head is repeated in the shape of the body within the slightly bowed arms, the pattern of the upholstery, and the hands. The stillness of the pose and reserved expression of the sitter are set against subtle manipulations of the background and chair. For all of the apparent resistence by Madame Cézanne to revealing here anything about her thoughts and feelings, in The Art
Institute painting Cézanne has succeeded in creating a depiction of her that is at once dignified, complex, and monumental. (R. Brettell, Post-Impressionists, New York, 1987, p. 65)

The apparent non-finito of Cézanne's approach, which is belied by the presence of the two nearly identical paintings, calls attention to this underlying structure, just as the delicate modulations of tone and color in the face, background, and dress animate the surface of the canvas. The compositional organization and Cézanne's treatment of surface detail provide a brilliant counterpart to the apparent impassivity of the sitter.

It is worth noting that Cézanne's subject is quintessentially modern; it can be located within a sub-genre of late nineteenth-century portraits of artist's wives. Although we can look back even further in time for a precedent in Rembrandt's paintings of Saskia, the conception of the modern artist's wife, from Monet's paintings of Camille to Matisse's depictions of Amélie (fig. 5), is specifically tied to changing attitudes about the home and bourgeois domesticity. Cézanne's many portraits of Hortense Fiquet--at times tender, at times quietly disturbing--remain singular indices of the complex roles and attitudes assumed by the painter of modern life.

(fig. 1) Paul Cézanne, Madame Cézanne au fauteuil jaune, 1888-1890
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

(fig. 2) Paul Cézanne, Madame Cézanne au fauteuil jaune, 1888-1890
The Art Institute, Chicago

(fig. 3) Paul Cézanne, Portrait de Madame Cézanne en rouge, 1888-1890
Museo de Arte, São Paulo

(fig. 4) Pablo Picasso, Portrait de Gertrude Stein, 1905-1906
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

(fig. 5) Henri Matisse, Portrait de Madame Matisse, 1913
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

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