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 16th–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."
Marks and Labels
(Ambroise Vollard [1867-1939], Paris); sold 1896 to Egisto Fabbri [1866-1933], Paris and Florence, until at least 1925; (Paul Rosenberg, Paris, and Wildenstein Galleries, Paris); sold 1929 to Jakob Goldschmidt [d. 1955], Berlin and New York; his estate; (Goldschmidt sale, Sotheby's, London, 15 October 1958, no. 6); purchased by (Carstairs Gallery, New York) for Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia; gift 1995 to NGA.
- Exposition Cezanne, Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, January 1910, no. 25.
- XII Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte della Città di Venezia, Venice, 1920, no. 9
- Exhibition of Masters of French 19th Century Painting, New Burlington Galleries, London, 1936, no. 94
- Figure Pieces, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1937, no. 17, repro.
- Masterworks of Five Centuries, Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco, 1939, no. 1, repro.
- Masterpieces of Art. European & American Paintings 1500-1900, New York World's Fair, 1940, no. 347, repro.
- French Painting from David to Toulouse-Lautrec, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1941, no. 8
- Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Cezanne, Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York, 1942, no. 18, repro.
- The Child Through Four Centuries, Wildenstein, 1945, no. 34, repro.
- Loan Exhibition of Cezanne for the Benefit of the New York Infirmary, Wildenstein, New York, 1947, no. 53, repro.
- "What They Said" - Postscript to Art Criticism, for the Benefit of the Museumof ModernArt on its 20th Anniversary. Durand-Ruel Gallery, New York, 1949, no. 10.
- De David à Toulouse-Lautrec, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 1955, no. 3, repro.
- French Paintings from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1966, no. 70, repro.
- Cezanne. An Exhibition in Honor of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Phillips Collection, The Phillips Collection, Washington; The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, no.24, repro.
- Art for the Nation: Gifts in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1991, 236-237, color repro.
- An Enduring Legacy: Masterpieces from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999-2000, no cat.
- Cézanne: Aufbruch in die Moderne [Cézanne: The Dawn of Modern Art], Museum Folkwang, Essen, 2004-2005, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Cezanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant Garde, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; Musée d'Orsay, Paris, 2006-2007, no. 38, repro.
- 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. 10, repro.
- Henraux, Lucien. "Cézanne della Raccolta Fabbri." Dedalo 1 (June 1920): repro. p. 57.
- Goldwater, Robert. "The Glory that was France." Art News 65 (March 1966): 85, repro. 42.
- Neugass, Fritz. "Jubiläumsschau in der National-Galerie in Washington." Weltkunst XXXVI, no. 8 (15 April 1966): 335, repro.
- Young, Mahonri Sharp. "The Mellon Collections: The Great Years of French Painting." Apollo 83 (June 1966): 432, repro. 427.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 277.
- Rewald, John. The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: a catalogue raisonné. 2 vols. New York, 1996:no. 659, repro.
- Tansey, Richard G. and Fred S. Kleiner. Gardner's Art Through the Ages. 10th ed. Fort Worth, 1996: 997-998, color fig. 26.74.
- Kuthy, Sandor. Von Matisse bis Dali: Das Legat Georges F. Keller an das Kunstmuseum Bern / De Matisse à Dali: Le Legs Georges F. Keller au Musée des beaux-arts de Berne. Bern, 1998: 99, repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: vi, 390, no. 324, color repros.
- Bardazzi, Francesco, ed. Cézanne in Florence: Two Collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism. Exh. cat. Palazzo Strozzi, Florence. Milan, 2007: 264 fig. 28.
- Kennicott, Philip. "French Rooms Reopen, With Different Accents." Washington Post 135, no. 55 (January 29, 2012): E25, color repro.
- Harris, Neil. Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago and London, 2013: 418.