Cézanne’s later disenchantment with his wife is well documented and indisputable. Looking at his portraits of her as a whole, critics have repeatedly cited the mainly sad and vacant images of Hortense as reflective of the emotional distance that famously built up between the couple. It is against this context of subsequent apathy, that this early and romantic work becomes all the more compelling. In contrast to the later more detached portraits, here we are caught in the frame of a close and private family moment; the baby Paul breast-feeding, his mother, only twenty-two years old, gently sleeping on her own shoulder, and Cézanne himself close at hand, making up the family trio. Knowing that Cézanne was living in secret, young, and with his first child, lends this work an extraordinarily poignant sense of romance and intimacy. It is painted with an energetic and gestural handling and a rich palette of dark ochre and dashed greens, blues and blacks: Rewald proposes that it ‘may very well have been one of the first pictures Cézanne painted inside after his ‘conversion’ to Impressionism; as such it strikes a new note in his work’ (J. Rewald, The Paintings of Paul Cézanne, A Catalogue raisonné, London, 1996, p. 158).
The provenance of this work is also of note: it was initially in the collection of Henri Rouart, industrialist, engineer, amateur pupil of Millet, and great collector. As well as several works by Cézanne, Rouart brought together pictures by Manet, Degas, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Daumier and over fifty painting by Corot. In his breadth and understanding, few could surpass this sympathetic and conoisseurial collector, and it was at the famous Rouart sale, upon his death in 1912, that the present work first changed hands. Rewald tells us this painting ‘was estimated at 3,000 francs but reached 10,000, at which price Jos Hessel purchased it, possibly for Auguste Pellerin’ (ibid., p. 158). There was great international interest in the Rouart auction, where Degas’s Danseuses à la barre sold to Louisine Havemeyer for the then unheard of price of 478,000 francs ($95,700). Hessel and Havemeyer were in good company, for the buyer of three of the five Cézannes on offer was Dr Albert Barnes, amongst the very earliest purchases for what was to become the Barnes Foundation. From one famed collector to another: Auguste Pellerin was the second owner of this work and overseer of the greatest collection of Cézanne pictures ever assembled, amassing close to 150 works over a quarter of a century.
The present work is one of very few portraits of Hortense to remain in private hands: twenty-one of the twenty-nine known oil paintings of her are in museum collections.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale