How Cézanne helped invent the modern portrait

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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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THE patient is carefully positioned on a pristine rectangular table. A signal is given, and from behind a glass wall, a technician directs an X-ray machine overhead. Zapping begins. This is not a hospital. It is the conservation laboratory of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Visits here were part of the …