The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement” (Paul Cézanne, c. 1866)

Portrait of Ambroise Vollard - Paul Cezanne - 1899

Artwork Information

TitlePortrait of Ambroise Vollard
ArtistPaul Cezanne
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions100 x 81 cm
Art MovementPost-Impressionism
Current LocationMusee du Petit Palais, Paris
Location Created Florence, Italy

About Portrait of Ambroise Vollard

Paul Cézanne, The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement”, c. 1866, oil on canvas, 198.5 x 119.3 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Paul Cézanne painted The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement” in oil on canvas around 1866. This painting is part of the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

What is depicted in The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement”     

The painting depicts the painter’s father, the banker Louis-Auguste Cézanne. He is represented in a seated position reading L’Événement.  

The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement” – 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.

John Rewald in Cézanne and His Father writes the Jas de Bouffan, where the painter usually found a haven and to which he returned for many decades, remained for him, as he was to say – even some ten years after the banker’s death – la maison de mon pèrel. But more important still is the one testimonial that has been completely neglected: the series of portraits Cézanne did of his father, whom he represented in more paintings and drawings than Manet, Monet, Renoir, or Pissarro ever did of their respective fathers. Cézanne’s early models were obviously drawn from the small circle of his family and friends. Since he either abandoned or destroyed many of his works of those years, it is impossible to establish an exact count.  

Paul Cézanne, The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement” (detail), c. 1866, oil on canvas, 198.5 x 119.3 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement” is the second in a series of three portraits of Louis-Auguste Cézanne. In the first and last painting in this series, Cézanne presents his father in profile, while in this painting he is presented frontally. The palette that Cézanne chooses for this portrait is lighter than the strikingly dark tones that characterize his painting in those years. The armchair in which Louis-Auguste Cézanne sits is moved slightly to the side in order to achieve the impression of depth. Painted in parts with a palette knife, Cézanne also incorporated a still life into this composition, which, like a picture within a picture, is on the wall above the armchair on which the father is sitting. 

Paul Cézanne, The Painter’s Father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne, c .1865, oil on house paint on plaster mounted on canvas scrim, 167.6 × 114.3 cm, The National Gallery, London

Related Artworks      

Cézanne painted several portraits of his father, very similar in composition to the painting, The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement” is a portrait painted a year earlier – The Painter’s Father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne. This painting is in the collection of the National Gallery in London. The third portrait in which the painter’s father is shown reading belongs to this series. Portrait of the Artist’s Father was created between 1870 and 1871 and is part of the Joseph Klingenstein Collection in New York. 

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