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Cézanne's Portraits: Doubt, Certainty, and Painting in Series

John Elderfield, chief curator emeritus of painting and sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Distinguished Curator and Lecturer, Princeton University Art Museum. Bringing together some 60 paintings drawn from collections around the world, Cézanne Portraits is the first exhibition devoted exclusively to this often-neglected area of Paul Cézanne’s work. His portraits were widely thought to be shockingly inept when they were first exhibited, but were understood by a small circle of artists and critics to be extremely radical works. In this lecture held on June 3, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, John Elderfield discusses how Cézanne’s extended, methodical style of painting—“one stroke after the other” is how the artist described it—readily led to the creation of one painting after the other of the same subject. Elderfield also explains how indifferent Cézanne was to the “personality” or “character” of his sitters—long thought to have been necessary aims of portraiture—wanting simply to paint the objective, permanent presence of someone seen. Cézanne Portraits, in its sole American venue at the National Gallery, is on view through July 1, 2018.