Overview

Working diligently to find his artistic voice in the first decade of his career, Cézanne often prevailed upon friends and relatives to act as models in his studio on the family estate in Aix-en-Provence. The poet and art historian Antony Valabrègue, who grew up with Cézanne in Aix, sat for the young artist several times in the 1860s.

Cézanne chose a fairly conventional format for this portrait—a three-quarter-length figure with face turned slightly to the side, and plain backdrop—but he executed it in a wholly radical manner. He eschewed the precise delineation of form, evidenced especially along the edges of the coat, where black pigment spills onto the gray of the background. Even more strikingly, he used a palette knife—a blunt instrument normally used to mix paint—to apply thick layers of pigment, achieving a ferocious, even crude effect seen, most obviously, in Valabrègue’s face. Even where the artist used a brush to form the tightly clenched fists, for instance, the handling is raw and turbulent.

As Cézanne eagerly anticipated, the work was rejected by the Salon of 1866. Thus he proudly joined the ranks of other insurgent artists who failed to get into the Salon that year, including Edouard Manet and Auguste Renoir.

Inscription

lower right: P.Cezanne

Provenance

(Ambroise Vollard [1867-1939], Paris); sold 26 March 1901 to Breysse; resold 1904 to Vollard; sold 1911 through (Bernheim-Jeune) to Auguste Pellerin [1852-1929], Paris;[1] by inheritance to his son, Jean-Victor Pellerin, Paris, until at least 1946.[2] private collection, Zürich. (Wildenstein & Co., London, New York, and Paris), at least in 1947;[3] sold 1966 to Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia; gift 1970 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1907
22nd Exhibition of the Mánes Union of Fine Arts: French Impressionists [Katalog triadvacáté výstavy Spolku Výtvarných Umĕlců Mánes: Francouzšti Impressionisté], Mánes Pavilion, Prague, 1907, no. 53.
1909
[Group exhibition], Paul Cassierer, Berliln, 1909, possibly no. 9.
1910
Exhibition of the Works of Modern French Artists, Public Art Galleries, Brighton, England, 1910, no. 184.
1912
Salon d'Automne, Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, Paris, 1912, no. 51.
1938
Honderd Jaar Fransche Kunst, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1938, no. 3.
1939
[Exhibition], Musée de Lyon, 1939, no. 7.
1939
Homage to Paul Cézanne. Wildenstein & Co., London, 1969, no. 6.
1947
Loan Exhibition of Cezanne for the Benefit of the New York Infirmary, Wildenstein, New York, 1947, no. 2, repro.
1952
Cézanne: Paintings, Watercolors & Drawings, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1952, no. 7.
1964
Chefs-d'oeuvre des collections Suisses de Manet à Picasso, Palais de Beaulieu, Lausanne, 1964, no. 85, repro.
1984
Paul Cézanne, Museo Español de Arte Contemporaneo, Madrid, 1984, no. 3, repro.
1986
Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1986, unnumbered checklist.
1986
Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad; State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 1986, no. 34, repro.
1988
Cézanne: The Early Years, Royal Academy of Arts, London; Musée d'Orsay, Paris; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1988-1989, no. 16, repro.
1999
Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from American Collections, The Baltimore Museum of Art; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1999-2000, no. 13, repro.
2011
Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The National Art Center, Tokyo; Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, 2011, no. 9, repro.
Bibliography
1936
Venturi, Lionello. Cezanne, son art, son oeuvre. 2 vols. Paris, 1936.
1970
Orienti 1970, no.65.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 62, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 503, no. 745, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 82, repro.
1996
Rewald, John. The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: a catalogue raisonné. 2 vols. New York, 1996:no. 94, repro.