Cézanne was committed to the long process of working on the painting. That work was based on the principles of unifying what he sees and what he feels and thinks about the model he is painting and the environment that surrounds him. In portraits, he begins to apply the technique he developed in landscape painting. The technique of the so-called constructive brushstrokes. This technique involves arranging patches of paint of similar size in parallel or diagonal directions, treating the figure and face of the portrayed person and the objects in his environment in the same way. During his long career, Cézanne almost always portrayed people from his immediate environment. These were usually family members or friends.
It is important to point out that Cézanne most often did not do portraits for commercial reasons. That is why his portrait painting is interpreted as a great character study. Cézanne excluded the one-time impulse of immediate experience from the construction of scenes. The mimetic approach was never close to Cézanne’s understanding of painting. This is evident both in numerous self-portraits and in the series of portraits of Hortense Fiquet, which were also created in series throughout his entire career. It is important to point out that it is difficult to single out two completely related portraits of Hortense Fiquet out of almost thirty of them if we take the physical characteristics as the main criterion. Cézanne based the structuring of the painting on the isolation of the authentic features of the motif and their coloristic coexistence.
Cézanne portrayed his wife in refined clothing as she sits with her hand resting on the arm of an armchair. The structure of the composition is based on the coloristic tension of complementary tones divided into the upper and lower segments of the image. A field of dull brown color that extends across the entire width of the central part of the composition separates the dark and light color blocks. The very position of Madame Cezanne supports this division since the border of these two coloristic units divides her figure at bust level. Cézanne experiments with the tradition of representativeness in this portrait as well. By stimulating the sensation of a certain sentiment using colors, Cézanne generates an atmosphere that becomes the final goal of the painting. That atmosphere conveys the study of the character and his current state. The emotional state of the portrayed, although only in the indications of a moved lower lip or a lost gaze, takes precedence over delicate elements in the domain of furniture or costumes.
In the Barnes Foundation Collection, next to Madame Cézanne with Green Hat, there is another portrait by Cézanne of his wife with a predominantly dark palette. It is a painting Madame Cézanne created between 1888 and 1890.