How Cézanne helped invent the modern portrait

The birth of the modern

LATE in life, Paul Cézanne told his art dealer Ambroise Vollard that “the culmination of all art is the human face.” It’s a peculiar assertion, coming from the master of landscape and still-life, whom Matisse and Picasso revered as “the father of us all”. But Cézanne also painted scores of portraits over a 50-year career, and they tell a surprising story. As an unprecedented new exhibition persuasively argues, it is through this lesser-known aspect of his work that the master of Aix-en-Provence found his artistic voice.

“Cézanne’s Portraits” is the first exhibition in more than a century to bring his major portraits under one roof. Conceived by curators in three countries, it was a hit at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and opened in late October at London’s National Portrait Gallery. It will travel to the National Gallery in Washington, DC next March. Not since Vollard showed 24 Cézanne portraits in 1910 have…Continue reading

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Redeeming Mary Magdalene

EVERY generation of artists has brought its own sensibilities and experiences to the depiction of canonical Christian stories. Giotto, an Italian painter, set Bible scenes in medieval Tuscany. Rembrandt gave his a hint of mercantile 17th-century Amsterdam. “Mary Magdalene” is similarly a retelling of some of the faith’s main events …

The mysterious reggaeton bangers of Mexico’s election

FOR evidence that modern democracy has lost its pep, look back to the age of cheery campaign jingles. The art form dominated elections from America to the Philippines after the second world war. Australian political parties used them well into the 1980s. It is tempting to believe that melodious campaigns …

The maddest March: at last, a 16-seed upsets a number one

THE line separating the improbable from the impossible is hard to pin down. The annual single-elimination tournament to crown the champion of North America’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in men’s basketball is known as “March Madness”, thanks to the steady diet of upsets it produces. Every year, a few …