Lot 11
  • 11

Paul Cézanne

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
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  • Paul Cézanne
  • Femme assise (Madame Cézanne)
  • watercolour and pencil on paper
  • 49 by 37.2cm.
  • 19 1/4 by 14 5/8 in.


Ambroise Vollard, Paris

Adams Brothers, London (acquired from the above by 1946)

Private Collection, London

Paul Rosenberg, New York

Robert von Hirsch, Basel (acquired from the above in November 1951. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 27th June 1978, lot 838)

Purchased at the above sale by the late owner


London, Tate Gallery; Leicester, Leicester Museum and Art Gallery & Sheffield, Graves Art Gallery, Paul Cézanne: An Exhibition of Watercolours, 1946, no. 25

Tübingen, Kunsthalle & Zurich, Kunsthaus, Paul Cézanne Aquarelle 1866 -1906, 1982, no. 101, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Fondation Maeght, L'Œuvre ultime de Cézanne à Dubuffet, 1989, no. 6, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand-Palais, Cézanne, 1995-96, no. 169, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from circa 1895)

Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Linie, Licht und Schatten. Meisterzeichnungen und Skulpturen der Sammlung Jan und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 1999, no. 122, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Venice, The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, The Timeless Eye. Master Drawings from the Jan and Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski Collection, 1999, no. 141, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Miradas sin Tiempo. Dibujos, Pinturas y Esculturas de la Coleccion Jan y Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2000, no. 140, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, La passion du dessin. Collection Jan et Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2002, no. 124, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Vienna, Albertina Museum, Goya bis Picasso. Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2005, no. 95, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Munich, Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das Ewige Auge - Von Rembrandt bis Picasso. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2007, no. 125, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Ambroise Vollard, Paul Cézanne, Paris, 1914, illustrated p. 125 (titled Etude pour un portrait de femme)

Lionello Venturi, Paul Cézanne Aquarelles, Oxford, 1934, illustrated pl. 14

Lionello Venturi, Cézanne, son art - son œuvre, Paris, 1936, vol. I, no. 1093, catalogued p. 276; vol. II, no. 1093, illustrated pl. 316 (titled Portrait de femme and as dating from 1895-1900)

Lionello Venturi, Paul Cézanne, Water Colours, London, 1943, illustrated pl. 14 (as dating from 1895-1900)

William Rubin (ed.), Cézanne: The Late Work, New York, 1977, pl. 21, illustrated p. 229

Galerie Jan Krugier (ed.), Dix ans d'activité, Geneva, 1983, no. 17

John Rewald, Paul Cézanne, The Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, London, 1983, no. 543, illustrated

Cézanne: Finished - Unfinished (exhibition catalogue), Kunstforum, Vienna & Kunsthaus, Zurich, 2000, fig. 1, illustrated p. 192

Cézanne in the Studio: Still Life in Watercolors (exhibition catalogue), The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2004, fig. 36, illustrated in colour p. 89

Susan Sidlauskas, Cézanne's Other. The Portraits of Hortense, Los Angeles & London, 2009, no. 59, illustrated in colour p. 202


Executed on cream wove paper. There are some old hinges affixed to the reverse of the sheet. There are a number of artist's pin-holes in the upper corners and a few in the lower right corner. At the left of the lower edge and lower left edge there are a few tiny nicks and tears. Apart from a few discoloured spots, intrinsic to the paper, this work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although slightly more subtle and less warm in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1902-04, Femme assiseis a remarkable example of Cézanne’s mature œuvre. It belongs to the climactic phase in Cézanne’s artistic production, during which he executed a number of his best works that were to have a pivotal influence on the development of twentieth century art. In this watercolour, depicting a woman in profile seated at a table, the artist reduced his palette to a combination of blue, green and orange tones; his broad brushstrokes are contained within the thin blue outlines, setting the woman, table and chair apart from the more loosely rendered background.


Femme assise was probably executed at Les Lauves, where Cézanne purchased a plot of land in 1901 and built a studio to which he moved in the autumn of the following year. John Rewald discussed the setting of the present work: ‘Vague indications in the background show that the woman seated at the same table was posed in the open, doubtless on the terrace in front of Cézanne’s Lauves studio […]. In the absence of guiding pencil lines, all outlines have been retraced with a blue brush. Occasionally, particularly in the lower sleeve, these brush lines are repeated numerous times, while in the back of the chair and in some other places they are applied in short, staccato strokes such as appear frequently in the artist’s watercolours of his last years [fig. 1]. But where the brush does not trace lines, it spreads washes in a superbly broad and sweeping fashion’ (J. Rewald, op. cit., p. 221).


John Rewald has commented that the identity of the sitter in Femme assise is unknown, and that the same model sat for Cézanne’s oil Portrait de femme of 1902-06 (Private Collection; formerly in the collection of the Norton Simon Foundation, Los Angeles). However, Carol Armstrong identified the sitter of the present composition as the artist’s wife, Madame Cézanne. Discussing this watercolour, she wrote: ‘In his portraiture and genre painting, Cézanne worked between watercolour and oil, but rarely did his watercolours serve as sketches towards his oils. One exception might be Seated Woman (Madame Cézanne) of around 1902-4 [the present work], which relates both to works like Young Italian Woman at a Table in the Getty Museum [fig. 2] and to many of Cézanne’s seated portraits of this period – all works that confirm his interest in the body that sits at and leans upon the still-life table’ (C. Armstrong in Cézanne in the Studio: Still Life in Watercolors (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 90).


In her book Cézanne's Other: The Portraits of Hortense, the art historian Susan Sidlauskas argues that the subject of the present work may well be the artist's wife, Hortense Fiquet Cézanne. Sidlauskas links this watercolour to an earlier oil, Madame Cézanne au jardin of 1879-80 (fig. 3): 'Her oversize hands anticipate the proportions of Seated Woman [...]. Taches of green and blue radiate around this "figure at a table," surrounding her with an aureole of color, as if she is generating the color strokes herself' (S. Sidlauskas, op. cit., p. 205), a feature reminiscent of the semi-circular strokes of watercolour that form a halo around the upper body of the woman in the present work. Sidlauskas wrote of Hortense's recurring presence in Cézanne's art: 'She is […] indisputably, stubbornly, there, over and over - a constant figure who inspired an array of variations that present her as newly made every time. Cézanne kept coming back to her in his work. In Seated Woman, if I am right, he came back one last time. She sits at the table that provided the stage for so many of the artist's still-life arrangements and was at the center of his studio, at the center of his practice. By being there, Hortense Fiquet Cézanne sat with her husband, and became his art' (ibid., p. 211).

Executed in patches of watercolour in contrasting hues, Femme assise is a testament to Cézanne’s virtuosity in this medium, as well as to his remarkably modern vision. By using the most minimal pictorial means, with patches of colour suggesting folds in the woman’s dress and the subtle effects of light and shadow caused by them, the artist is able to render the volume of the woman’s body and the elements that surround her, investing the areas of bare paper with an equal pictorial and compositional value as line and colour. In combining these positive and negative spaces and juxtaposing cool and warm tones, Cézanne achieved a sense of volume and space that makes his mature watercolours a unique achievement in modern art.


This work has been requested for the exhibition Madame Cézanne, to be held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York from November 2014 to March 2015.