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Inside The Museum Of Modern Art’s Beautiful New Cézanne Show

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The Museum of Modern Art’s new exhibition, “Cézanne Drawing,” which recently opened in New York, is the most comprehensive exhibition of Cézanne works on paper ever mounted in the United States. The show features more than 250 examples of the artist’s output, lent by public institutions and private collectors around the world, and augmented by MoMA’s substantial holdings.

For those interested in Cézanne and the transition from 19th to 20th-century art, this is an exhibition the likes of which will probably not happen again anytime soon, at least on these shores, and therefore is a must-see. During my recent visit, I was pleasantly surprised to see the galleries filled with people from all walks of life, some knowledgeable about “the painter of apples” and some not, all of whom were admiring and discussing the work of an artist who, he might be surprised to learn, has become something of a household name in the century since his death.

Who Was Paul Cézanne?

Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was born in Aix-en-Provence, the son of a successful banker and self-made man. Although his father wanted Cézanne to become a lawyer, he eventually acquiesced to his son moving to Paris, just like his close childhood friend, author Émile Zola (1840-1902). Despite his ambitions, including making connections with the Impressionists, the somewhat rough-mannered and eccentric Cézanne never quite made it in the capital, and eventually returned home.

Installation view of Cézanne Drawing, June 06, 2021–September 25, 2021, at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. | Digital Image © 2021 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. | Photo by Jonathan Muzikar

Over time, as he sought to evoke through unconventional means the solidity of three-dimensional forms in two-dimensional images, his work slowly earned greater esteem among the cognoscenti, even as he stayed far away from the rarified salons and café society that had once rejected him. By the end of his life, the supposed country bumpkin was inundated with young Parisian artists making pilgrimages to Provence, trying to grab his attention on his way out

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