Madame Cézanne, also known as Hortense Fiquet, was Paul Cézanne’s wife and most-painted model. Between 1885 and 1887, the French post-impressionist painter created over two dozen portraits of her, including Madame Cézanne in the Conservatory and Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress. In these paintings, Madame Cézanne’s emotionless features, plain dress, and conventional attitude make her appear almost lifeless.
Cézanne utilized a triadic color scheme for his portraits of Madame Cézanne, with the third dimension given by overlap and tone. The artworks’ composition is complex: some elements are distorted or simplified to leave only their essence visible. The date of creation for these pieces remains uncertain.
The subject matter of these portraits has led art historians to debate whether they were attempts at capturing Hortense Fiquet’s likeness or simply studies on shapes and colors. Regardless of the intention behind them, the portraits show that Hortense played a significant role in Paul Cezanne’s artistic career.
Overall, Madame Cézanne’s presence in her husband’s paintings is enigmatic yet captivating. Despite being portrayed as emotionless and distant figures, these works still convey an undeniable sense of beauty through their use of color and form.