Portrait of Paul Cezanne, 1874 by Camille Pissarro

Portrait of Paul Cezanne, 1874 by Camille Pissarro
Courtesy of www.diego-velazquez.org

One afternoon in 1861, while making a tour of the Parisian Studios, Pissarro spotted the work of a young artist called Paul Cezanne. Pissarro encouraged the shy, disillusioned student and the friendship that ensued from this meeting became one of the most important relationships in the history of nineteenth-century painting. Pissarro would take Cezanne, nine years his junior, on his trips to the country and teach him to paint en plein air. Cezanne learn much from Pissarro but their relationship was not onesided; Pissarro also benefited from his contact with Cezanne.

Pissarro painted Portrait of Paul Cezanne in his studio in Pontoise, where the two artists worked in together in the 1870s. Contrary to the traditional portrait, Pissarro has not glamotized his sitter. Cezanne is dressed in informal clothes, similar to those he would have worn on their outdoot painting trips.

Cezanne and Pissarro painted each other on a number of occasions, but this work appears to be the very first portrait of Cezanne by his friend. Although the painting is not signed, and perhaps not even finished (note the unpainted, lower edge of the canvas), it is possible to date the painting to 1874. We already know that the two artists were working together at this time, but looking at the picture more closely gives us further clues. Behind Cezanne, to the top left of the painting, is a contemporary, political caricature of Adolphe Thiers, then head of the French government. This print appeared in the newspaper L 'Eclipse on 4 August 1874.