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Cézanne in the Studio: Still Life in Watercolors


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA.- Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906) is most celebrated for his stunning achievements in oils. But Cézanne’s watercolor still lifes reveal a lesser-known side of the artist, presenting a more poignant, human aspect of his art. Cézanne in the Studio: Still Life in Watercolors, on view through January 2, 2005 at the Getty Center, is the first exhibition to highlight the intersection between the genre of still life and the medium of watercolor in Cézanne’s body of work. The exhibition is sponsored by Merrill Lynch.

This focused exhibition brings together more than 20 watercolor still lifes drawn from collections around the world. Because of the fragility of the medium, these works have rarely been loaned. This exhibition represents a singular opportunity to study many of Cézanne’s greatest works in watercolor, from early examples created around 1865 to the spectacular prismatic sheets from the end of his career. It includes Still Life: Flowers and Fruit on a Table, his earliest known watercolor still-life painting that features a technique closer to his oils; three of his spectacular, highly worked still lifes with watermelons; and Still Life with Blue Pot, a masterwork from the Getty’s collection that sums up his command of both the medium and the genre. Also on display are pages from one of Cézanne’s sketchbooks and exploratory studies that reveal the process of his work in the studio, and the dialogue he created between silvery pencil lines and ethereal watercolor washes.

"Cézanne is strongly represented in the Getty’s collection and we are pleased to bring attention to this more personal, intimate side of his art and offer a fuller understanding of the artist and his creative process," says Deborah Gribbon, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum and vice president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. "This exhibition marks the launch of a new corporate sponsorship program and we are delighted to introduce Merrill Lynch as our inaugural sponsor."

"We are honored to be a part of Cézanne in the Studio," says Devon J. Baranski, director of Merrill Lynch Private Banking and Investment Group in Southern California. "Merrill Lynch is a long-time supporter of the arts and we are particularly excited to work with the Getty to bring this notable exhibition to the public."

Cézanne in the Studio complements another Getty exhibition, The Prismatic Palette:  Four Centuries of Watercolors, on view through January 2, 2005. Tracing the medium of watercolor over 400 years, The Prismatic Palette provides a historical context for the understanding of Cézanne’s work, and places the artist at the apex of the medium’s development as one of its greatest practitioners.

The everyday domestic objects of Cézanne’s still lifes and the process of watercolor suggest that the interior world of the studio mattered as much to Cézanne as the open-air landscape motifs for which he is more famous. Many of his grandest, most fully orchestrated watercolors were created late in his career, between 1902 and 1906, when he moved into his last studio at Les Lauves near his hometown of Aix-en-Provence. The studio exists today as a museum, preserving a number of the objects found in his still-life works. Here, Cézanne painted a range of subjects, including rustic pots, cognac bottles, and brilliant floral tapestries that demonstrate how he brought elements of the humble material world of rustic Provence inside his studio and transformed them into some of his most vivid and colorful imagery.

In his hands, inanimate objects became imbued with a human quality. In The Green Pot, the roundness and configuration of the pot’s two handles suggest a kind of human bravado. It stands alone against the studio wall in a shaft of sunlight, looking for all the world like a human model with belly outthrust and arm akimbo. Sometimes the suggestion of floors and walls leading beyond the frame of the image seem to allude to the wider world outside the studio that Cézanne did not seem to inhabit easily in life, but could hint at in his art. A watercolor of a potted plant inside his studio recalls a romantic woman at the window, seemingly yearning to escape the confines of the space.






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