National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Boy in a Red Waistcoat Paul Cézanne (painter)
French, 1839 - 1906
Boy in a Red Waistcoat, 1888-1890
oil on canvas
overall: 89.5 x 72.4 cm (35 1/4 x 28 1/2 in.)
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art
1995.47.5
On View
From the Tour: Paul Cézanne
Object 3 of 6

This is, at once, an astonishingly modern painting and one that reflects Cézanne's admiration for and connection to the past. He said himself that he "wanted to make of impressionism something solid and durable like the art of the museums." The boy's pose is that of an academic life study, and for some art historians it has recalled the languid elegance of sixteenth–century portraiture. As a young man in Paris, Cézanne had learned his art not only from his impressionist colleagues but also through studying old masters in the Louvre.

On the other hand, it is possible to see this so–called portrait as an entity of shapes and colors. Notice the paints used in the hands and face: these greens and mauves have little to do with human flesh. The almost dizzying background of angles and gentle arcs, which are difficult at first to "read" as draperies and a chair back, divide space rather than define it. A work such as this looks forward to the reconstructed pictorial space of the cubists Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, leading one noted critic to write, "Cézanne's art . . . lies between the old kind of picture, faithful to a striking or beautiful object, and the modern 'abstract' kind of painting, a moving harmony of color touches representing nothing."

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