PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
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PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
4 More
Property from an Important Private Collection
PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)

La Conversation

PAUL CEZANNE (1839-1906)
La Conversation
oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 28 3/4 in. (92 x 73 cm.)
Painted in 1870-1871
Estate of the artist.
Louis Granel, Aix-en-Provence (acquired from the above).
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (18 September 1912).
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 15 January 1916).
Robert Treat Paine, Boston.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (1917).
Stephan Bourgeois Gallery, New York.
Walther Halvorsen, Oslo.
Nielsen collection, Oslo and Galerie Thannhauser, Lucerne (6 March 1926).
Collection Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired from the above, 30 March 1926).
Private collection, Paris (acquired from the above, then by descent); sale, Christie's, London, 20 June 2018, lot 24B.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
M. Denis, "Cezanne" in Kunst und Künstler, vol. 12, no. 4, January 1914, p. 282 (illustrated; titled Scene im freien).
R. Cortissoz, "Paul Cezanne and the Cult for His Paintings" in New York Tribune, vol. 75, 9 January 1916, p. 3 (illustrated; titled The Two Sisters).
"Breve fra Paul Cezanne" in Klingen, vol. 3, no. 9, 1919-1920, p. 9 (illustrated).
J. Meier-Graefe, Cezanne und sein Kreis: Ein Beitrag zur Entwicklungsgeschichte, Munich, 1920, p. 79 (illustrated, p. 91; titled Szene im Freien).
J. Gasquet, Cezanne, Paris, 1921 (illustrated).
G. Janneau, "Impressions d'Amérique: M. Bénédite nous conte son voyage" in Le bulletin de la vie artistique, vol. 2, no. 8, 15 April 1921, p. 239 (illustrated).
H. von Wedderkop, Paul Cezanne, Leipzig, 1922, p. 17 (illustrated; titled Die zwei Schwestern).
T.-L. Klingsor, Cezanne, Paris, 1923 (illustrated, pl. 2; titled Portraits de Mlle Cézanne, Mme Conil, MM. Abram et Valabrégue).
G. Rivière, Le Maître Paul Cezanne, Paris, 1923, p. 26 (illustrated, p. 33; dated 1875; with incorrect provenance).
I. Arishima, Sezannu, Tokyo, 1925 (illustrated, pl. 17).
R. Cortissoz, Personalities in Art, New York, 1925, p. 299 (titled The Two Sisters).
L. Vauxcelles, "A propos de Cezanne" in Art Vivant, 26 July 1926, p. 484 (illustrated).
M. Osborn, "Klassiker der Französischen Moderne die Galerie Thannhauser in Berlin" in Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, vol. 59, October 1926-March 1927, p. 334 (illustrated).
Frankfürter Illustrierte, 5 March 1927, p. 219.
G. Charensol, "Cezanne à la galerie Pigalle" in Art Vivant, vol. 6, no. 124, 15 February 1930, p. 181 (illustrated).
E. d'Ors, Paul Cezanne, Paris, 1930, no. 31 (illustrated, pl. 31; titled Les deux urs).
G. Rivière, Cezanne: Le peintre solitaire, Paris, 1933, p. 177 (illustrated, p. 51; dated 1875; with incorrect provenance).
G. Mack, Paul Cezanne, New York, 1935, pp. 50-51 (illustrated, p. 51, fig. 6; dated 1868 or 1870).
M. Raynal, Cezanne, Paris, 1936, p. 145 (illustrated, p. 37, pl. X; titled Les deux soeurs).
G. di San Lazzaro, Paul Cezanne, Paris, 1936 (illustrated, fig. 44).
L. Venturi, Cezanne: Son art—son oeuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, p. 93, no. 120 (illustrated, vol. II, pl. 30).
J. Rewald, "Sources d'inspiration de Cezanne" in Amour de l'Art, no. 5, May 1936, p. 192 (illustrated, fig. 98).
P. Francastel, L'Impressionnisme: Les origines de la peinture moderne de Monet à Gauguin, Paris, 1937, p. 81 (illustrated, pl. 4, fig. 14; titled Les deux urs).
R. Cogniat, ed., Cezanne, Paris, 1939 (illustrated, pl. IV).
R.H. Wilenski, Modern French Painters, New York, 1940, p. 30 (illustrated, pl. 7).
G. Rivière, Cezanne: Le peintre solitaire, Paris, 1942, p. 51 (illustrated).
B. Dorival, Cezanne, Paris, 1948 (illustrated, pl. IV; titled Femmes au jardin).
R.W. Murphy, The World of Cezanne, New York, 1968, p. 41 (illustrated).
F. Elgar, Cezanne, London, 1969, p. 27, no. 11 (illustrated).
S. Orienti, The Complete Paintings of Cezanne, New York, 1972, p. 88, no. 41 (illustrated; titled Two Ladies and Two Gentlemen Outdoors (Conversation Piece)).
M. Roskill, "Early Impressionism and the Fashion Print" in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 112, no. 807, June 1970, p. 392.
A. Barskaya, Paul Cezanne, Leningrad, 1975, p. 162 (illustrated).
L. Venturi, Cezanne, Geneva, 1978, pp. 58 and 170 (illustrated, p. 58).
J.-J. Lévêque, La vie et l'œuvre de Paul Cezanne, Paris, 1988, p. 54 (illustrated).
J. Rewald, Cezanne and America: Dealers, Collectors, Artists and Critics, 1891-1921, Princeton, 1989, pp. 300, no. 151 (illustrated).
J. Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cezanne: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1996, vol. I, pp. 137-138, no. 152 (illustrated, vol. II, p. 52).
A. Dombrowski, "The Emperor's Last Clothes: Cezanne, Fashion and 'L'année terrible'" in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 148, no. 1242, September 2006, pp. 586 and 589-590 (illustrated in color, p. 589).
A. Danchev, Cezanne: A Life, New York, 2012, p. 189.
L. Gottlieb and J.E. Sorensen, Modernism: Reinventing Painting, 1908-1941, exh. cat., AroS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, 2012, pp. 180 and 182 (illustrated, p. 180, fig. 121).
A. Dombrowski, Cezanne, Murder, and Modern Life, Berkeley, 2013, p. 184 (illustrated in color, pl. 14a).
F. Kitschen, "Auf der dunklen Seite der Moderne" in Kunstchronik, vol. 68, no. 2, February 2015, p. 86.
F. and G.-P. Dauberville, Paul Cezanne chez Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 2020, p. 554, no. 160 (illustrated, p. 555; illustrated in situ in Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie. exhibitions pp. 117, 129 and 137; illustrated in Galerie Bernheim Jeune et Cie. exhibition catalogues, pp. 127 and 131; titled Les deux soeurs de Cezanne (La conversation)).
W. Feilchenfeldt, J. Warman and D. Nash, The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cezanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné (, no. FWN 607 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paul Cezanne, January 1914, no. 9 (titled Les urs de Cézanne).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Exhibition of Paintings by Contemporary French Artists, January 1916, no. 12 (titled The Two Sisters).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Rétrospective Paul Cezanne, June 1926, no. 51 (titled Les deux urs).
Berlin, Galerie Thannhauser, Erste Sonderausstellung in Berlin, January-February 1927, p. 10, no. 12 (illustrated, p. 11; titled Die zwei Schwestern).
Paris, Galerie Pigalle, Cezanne, December 1929, p. 17, no. 1 (illustrated; titled Les deux urs).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Cent ans de portraits français: 1800-1900, October-November 1934, no. 18 (illustrated; dated 1875).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Quelques tableaux d'Ingres à Gauguin, June-July 1935, no. 4 (illustrated; titled Les deux urs).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., La Femme, 1800-1930, April-June 1948, p. 21, no. 15 (illustrated, p. 20).
Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries, Monticelli et le baroque Provençal, June-September 1953, pp. 6-7, no. 12 (with incorrect provenance; titled Les deux sœurs ou La Conversation).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Cezanne: Aquarelliste et peintre, May-July 1960, no. 27.
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Cent ans de portrait: 1860-1960, May-July 1962, no. 12 (titled Les deux soeurs).
Schaffhausen, Museums zu Allerheiligen, Die Welt des Impressionismus, June-September 1963, p. 17, no. 4 (illustrated; titled Die zwei Schwestern).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., L'art et la mode, 1965, no. 6.
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Aquarelles de Cezanne, January-March 1971, no. 24 (titled Les deux urs ou La Conversation).
Paris, Musée d'Orsay; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Art Institute of Chicago, L'Impressionnisme et la Mode, September 2012-May 2013, pp. 122 and 298, no. 59 (illustrated in color, p. 122).
Martigny, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Paul Cezanne: Le chant de la terre, June-November 2017, pp. 266 and 340, no. 79 (illustrated in color, p. 267).
The Art Institute of Chicago and London, Tate Modern, Cezanne, May 2022-March 2023, p. 74, no. 6 (illustrated in color, p. 75).

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

Painted circa 1870-1871, the enigmatic La Conversation is a rare and highly important work from Paul Cezanne’s early career, which reveals the multiple influences that were shaping the artist’s bourgeoning style at a pivotal moment in his creative development. Depicting an apparently genteel scene, in which two fashionably-attired women enjoy an outing in a well-maintained park, the picture is laced with undercurrents of intrigue and mystery. Cezanne’s inspiration for the painting came not from life or a casually observed scene he had encountered, but rather from the popular, mass-media of his day—La Conversation is one of three known paintings by the artist from this period to derive directly from illustrated fashion plates, alongside Femmes et fillette dans un intérieur (FWN, no. 606; Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow) and La Promenade (FWN, no. 608; Private collection).
Common to women’s magazines of the time, these popular illustrations described the latest styles in Parisian fashion through a standardized pictorial vocabulary, in which small groups of elegantly dressed figures are seen conversing, promenading or “taking the air” in cultivated gardens and parks. The origins of La Conversation lay in the pages of one of the leading fashion journals of the day, La Mode illustrée, a periodical subscribed to by Cezanne’s two sisters, and one of the only publications to continue printing through the Franco-Prussian War which was raging through the fall and winter of 1870-1871. In response to the conflict, La Mode illustrée had begun to promote a much more modest and plainer style of dress, compared to the extravagant gowns and accessories it had advertised early in the summer. The beginnings of this shift in approach can be seen in the source imagery for La Conversation, which appeared in the publication just twelve days after the declaration of war.
While the rapidly changing styles of fashion had captured the imagination of many Impressionist artists through the 1860s, for Cezanne the growing size of a bustle or fall of a sleeve in a jacket represented more than just a glimpse in to the everchanging modern experience—these illustrations offered an invaluable insight into contemporary bourgeois culture, the tastes and opinions of society at large, and the social mores that governed and controlled human behavior. In La Conversation, Cezanne adapts and amends the fanciful imagery of the original fashion plate, to create a more complex scene. The two women appear distinctly melancholy, lost in their own thoughts rather than engaged in light conversation, while to the right of the composition Cezanne has added two soberly dressed men gazing away towards the middle distance, leading the eye towards the French flag fluttering in the breeze atop a cupola. There is a new sense of gravity within the scene when compared with the effervescent fashion plate, which perhaps hints towards the turbulent times in which it was created.
Expanding the narrative of the painting to suggest a partie de campagne, these additional figures introduce not just the idea of flirtation and an elemental male/female divide, but also a certain eroticism and intrigue. The relationship between the four characters remains elusive, their proximity suggesting a connection, but the nature of which remains ultimately unclear. As André Dombrowski has pointed out, this addition heightens the erotic undertone of the work: “Removed from the exclusively female realm of fashion, the transformed print evokes urban images of not so genteel flirtation” (in op. cit., September 2006, p. 590). Through these allusions and suggestive details, Cezanne recasts the familiar, benign imagery of the fashion plate into a more suspense-filled scene, foregrounding the drama, tension and hidden passions that often lay behind polite appearances.

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