CÉZANNE, Paul
(b. 1839, Aix-en-Provence, d. 1906, Aix-en-Provence)

Madame Cézanne in Blue

1885-87
Oil on canvas, 73 x 60 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

In April 1886, Cézanne married Hortense Fiquet in Aix. The reason why, after so long, he decided to make his relationship with Hortense official, despite not having loved her for a long time, was probable to ensure that their son Paul, now aged fourteen, did not suffer the stigma of having unmarried parents.

The present portrait shows Hortense sitting against a background which is divided into two parts: on the right is a door, with strictly geometric paneling; on the left is patterned wallpaper and the ornamental top of an occasional table. The pale, cool blue of the door is in sharp contrast with the warm earthy tones of the wall-hanging and the piece of furniture. The sitter is posed leaning slightly to one side, a motionless, monumental figure. The flesh tints of her serious, withdrawn looking face echo the colours of the background, and the opening of her jacket also helps to divide the composition into two.

Cézanne uses a similar process in his portraits to that of his landscapes: they are formal, strict, with a monumental, permanent quality.