Cézanne Portraits

A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art

Paul Cézanne

This exhibition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see so many of Cézanne's portraits together, and to get a glimpse into the life of one of the greatest artists of the 19th century.

Paul Cézanne painted around 200 portraits during his career and the exhibition curators at the National Portrait Gallery have managed to gather together around a quarter of them for the show. Highlights include his Self-Portrait in a Bowler Hat, on loan from a Copenhagen gallery, as well as Boy in a Red Waistcoat and Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair, both of which have not been seen in this country since the 1930s.

Cézanne found little recognition in his lifetime and his paintings were repeatedly rejected by the Paris Salon. His father, a banker, also opposed his career choice, although he supported his son financially throughout his career. He was encouraged to paint by his great friend Emile Zola and moved to Paris from his childhood home of Aix-en-Provence to pursue his art, where he met and exhibited with artists such as Pissarro, Manet and Jongkind.

Although Cézanne initially aligned himself with the Impressionists, and in particular Camille Pissarro, he is thought of as a Post-Impressionist artist and often cited as the godfather of Modernism. His work was hugely influential on younger artists, including the Fauves and the Cubists, with Matisse and Picasso, in particular, recognising their debt to him.

Cézanne painted portraits throughout his career and this exhibition has examples of his work from the 1860s, when he started painting, to shortly before his death in 1906, giving an excellent chronology of his most personal works.

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Need to know

The National Portrait Gallery was the first public portrait gallery in the world when it was founded in 1856. Its permanent collection has 200,000 paintings and portrait photographs of famous figures from British history, from kings and queens to film stars and politicians, dating from the 16th century to the current day. The gallery's restaurant on the top floor has stunning views over Trafalgar Square and down to Whitehall to the Houses of Parliament.

Also on at the gallery is the annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 (until 4 February 2018)
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Next door at the National Gallery there is an excellent exhibition of Edgar Degas paintings (another follower of Cézanne): Drawn in Colour: Degas From the Burrell (until 7 May 2018)
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Book now for

Picasso 1932: Love, Fame Tragedy — on the most significant year of the artist's career, at Tate Modern, March to September 2018.
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Michael Jackson: On the Wall — about the influence Jackson had on contemporary art, at the National Portrait Gallery, June to October 2018.
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Boy in a Red Waistcoat, 1888-90 by Paul Cézanne
Copyright: National Gallery of Art, Washington. Collection of Mr and Mrs Paul Mellon, in honour of the 50th anniversary of the National Gallery of Art


Now - 11 February


National Portrait Gallery
St Martin's Place
(just off Trafalgar Square)