First US Cezanne retrospective in 25 years opens in Chicago

Paul Cezanne, ‘The Basket of Apples,’ about 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.

Paul Cezanne, ‘The Basket of Apples,’ dating to circa 1893. The Art Institute of Chicago, from the Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.

CHICAGO – Through September 5, the Art Institute of Chicago is hosting “Cezanne,” a groundbreaking retrospective that sheds new light not only on how this pivotal artist created his works, but also why his art remains so vital today.

Paul Cezanne (French, 1839–1906) pursued a pair of questions throughout most of his life: Could a painter create artworks one sensation at a time? And, if so, would pictures made this way somehow be truer to life than those made by other means?

Paul Cezanne, ‘Portrait of the Artist with Pink Background,’ about 1875. Musee d’Orsay, Paris, donation de M. Philippe Meyer, 2000. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY. Photo: Adrien Didierjean.

Paul Cezanne, ‘Portrait of the Artist with Pink Background,’ about 1875. Musee d’Orsay, Paris, donation from M. Philippe Meyer, 2000. © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY. Photo: Adrien Didierjean.

This approach to art making was complex and set Cezanne apart within the Impressionist circle and modern art as a whole. Perhaps not surprisingly, fellow artists were among the first to recognize the value of his singular and, at the time, seemingly unsophisticated approaches to color, technique and materiality. As such, he came to be regarded as an “artist’s artist,” and indeed several of his supporters and admirers, including Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro in the 19th century and Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso in the 20th century, referred to Cezanne as “the greatest of us all.” Today, more than a hundred years after Cezanne’s last works were made, artists still revere his commitment to upholding personal truth in the act of art-making.

Paul Cezanne, ‘Still Life with Apples,’ 1893–94. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Paul Cezanne, ‘Still Life with Apples,’ 1893–94. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

This exhibition is the first major retrospective of the artist’s work in the United States in more than 25 years and the first exhibition on Cezanne organized by the Art Institute of Chicago in more than 70 years. Planned in coordination with Tate Modern, the ambitious project explores Cezanne’s work across media and genres with 90 oil paintings, 40 watercolors and drawings, and two complete sketchbooks. This outstanding array encompasses the range of Cezanne’s signature subjects and series — little-known early allegorical paintings, Impressionist landscapes, paintings of Montagne Sainte-Victoire, portraits and bather scenes — and includes both well-known works and rarely seen compositions from public and private collections in North and South America, Europe and Asia.

Paul Cezanne, ‘Montagne Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine,’ about 1887. The Courtauld Gallery, London. © Courtauld Gallery / Bridgeman Images.

Paul Cezanne, ‘Montagne Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine,’ about 1887. The Courtauld Gallery, London. © Courtauld Gallery / Bridgeman Images.

This extraordinary breadth of works comes together with state-of-the-art technical analysis of the artist’s palette, compositional construction and mark-making, deepening our understanding of how Cezanne conceived and developed his famously deliberate and nonlinear process. The exhibition also illuminates the pioneering trail Cezanne set for successive generations of artists. Through these complementary perspectives — of art historians, practicing artists and conservators — this once-in-a-generation exhibition reframes Cezanne, a giant of art history, for our own time.

Paul Cezanne, ‘Madame Cezanne in a Yellow Chair,’ 1888–90. The Art Institute of Chicago, Wilson L. Mead Fund.

Paul Cezanne, ‘Madame Cezanne in a Yellow Chair,’ 1888–90. The Art Institute of Chicago, Wilson L. Mead Fund.

“Cezanne” is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and Tate Modern, London.

The exhibition is curated by the Art Institute of Chicago’s Gloria Groom, Chair and David and Mary Winton Green curator, painting and sculpture of Europe, and Caitlin Haskell, Gary C. and Frances Comer curator, modern and contemporary Art, and the Tate Modern’s Natalia Sidlina, curator, international art.

Visit the website of the Art Institute of Chicago and see its dedicated page for Cezanne.