European Art: 19th Century

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Uncle Dominique, 1866

Paul CĂ©zanne

French, 1839-1906
Oil on canvas
18-1/8 x 15 in. (46.1 x 38.2 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
M.1968.31.P
© 2012 Norton Simon Art Foundation

On view

Although he participated in the first and third Impressionist exhibitions, Paul Cézanne nevertheless felt that he “wanted to make of Impressionism something solid and enduring, like the art in museums.” His early interests, then, were far from the light effects studied by the group and instead were directed toward capturing structure and solidity. This focus made the resolutely non-Parisian artist from Aix-en-Provence a natural model for Picasso and the cubists, and he is widely considered a father of 20th-century art. This early portrait of the artist’s uncle Antoine Dominique Sauveur Aubert (b. 1817) was one of nine created of the same sitter in a span of a few months in late 1866. Given the forceful swaths of pigment applied with both palette knife and brush, the straightforward portrait speaks directly to Cézanne’s artistic concerns. The materiality of the picture is paramount, its solidity reinforced by the near-relief created by the medium itself.

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