Cézanne’s Portraits Get a Show of their Own

Paul Cézanne is not usually thought of as a portrait painter, but while portraiture was a limited by-product of his total output, it was still an integral aspect of his work. Cézanne's portraits will be the subject of an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art through July 1.

The son of a banker who gave him an allowance, Cézanne never actually had to sell his work for a living, so for him painting portraits on commission to earn income was not a necessity. Cézanne’s 160 or so excursions into the genre were mostly of his family and friends who were willing to sit for him, a few local peasants, and of himself; and because these works span his painting career from start to finish they can be seen more in the nature of periodic stylistic exercises as he progressed from one level to the next of his pictorial language, leading to the doorstep of twentieth century abstraction.

That said, Cézanne’s first painting was a portrait, as was his last. Both are


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