Paul Cézanne painted Portrait of Ambroise Vollard in oil on canvas in 1899. This painting is in the collection of the Petit Palais in Paris.
What is depicted in the Portrait of Ambroise Vollard?
The painting shows the art collector Ambroise Vollard in a sitting position holding a book in his hand.
Portrait of Ambroise Vollard – Analysis
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. Ambroise Vollard played a crucial role in Cézanne’s position on the French art scene changing significantly in the mid-1890s.
As a collector, Ambroise Vollard had an important place in the development of French contemporary art at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. He collaborated with Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and André Derain. In the mid-1890s, Vollard came into contact with Cézanne’s painting, which deeply fascinated him. Vollard soon bought a large number of paintings from Cézanne’s son and organized Cézanne’s first solo exhibition in Paris in 1895. The collaboration with Vollard dramatically changed Cézanne’s status and during the last ten years of his life, Cézanne’s work became increasingly popular.
Cézanne presented Vollard in a sitting position, with his legs crossed and a book in his hand. Presented frontally in a brown suit with a white shirt, Vollard is placed symmetrically in the composition between the window on the left and the wall on the right. The portrait is characterized by Cézanne’s very complex approach to color. Nancy Locke in Paul Cézanne Revered the Old Masters, yet Influenced Waves of Modernists writes In the middle of a long sitting for a portrait, Ambroise Vollard, who had become Cézanne’s dealer, inquired about two unfinished spots on the hand. But Cézanne refused to be rushed. He said he needed to return to the museum for more study.”If the copy I’m making at the Louvre turns out well,” Cézanne replied, “perhaps I will be able tomorrow to find the exact tone to cover up those spots. Don’t you see, Monsieur Vollard, that if I put something there by guesswork, I might have to paint the whole canvas over starting from that point?”
It is known that Cézanne and Vollard met more than 100 times for the purpose of making this portrait. Cézanne decided to leave this composition unfinished and it was owned by Vollard until his death, after which it became part of the collection of the Petit Palais in Paris.
Cézanne often portrayed his friends, in addition to the portrait of the collector Vollard, one of the more significant portraits is that of Gustave Geffroy, a man whose writing influenced the development of Cézanne’s career.