This small but forceful portrait depicts Victor Chocquet (1821– 1891), one of Cezanne’s most important patrons. The two men were introduced in 1875 by Auguste Renoir and became close friends. Chocquet had already begun collecting work by the Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix, whom Cezanne greatly admired. From 1875 Chocquet amassed a major collection of Impressionist paintings by Renoir, Pissarro and Monet, plus 35 Cezannes. Among these were three of the six portraits of Chocquet that Cezanne painted over 12 years.
In this drawing the artist carefully models his friend’s likeness – hatching the contours of his face and recognisable quiff – and sketches in Chocquet’s apparel. It is similar to a depiction of the patron on another sheet of studies (collection of Jasper Johns). However, the pencil line framing this drawing, and the initials at lower right, give it a sense of containment and completion, raising the question of whether it was executed from life or using another source.
Cezanne experimented with making portraits from photo- graphs in order to better understand the effect of the sitter’s physical presence. He owned a photograph of Chocquet as a younger man, taken in about 1860, and used it to make a painted portrait in 1880–85, greying his friend’s hair for effect. In the present drawing the sitter wears the same clothes as in that portrait, leading many scholars to conclude that it too was made from the photograph. However, in the drawing Chocquet appears older and has only a whisper of the chinstrap beard present in the photograph.
This drawing is certainly connected to a small portrait – only about twice this size – painted around 1880 and formerly owned by another great Cezanne collector, Auguste Pellerin (1853– 1929). In the painting, the pencil hatching becomes playful shading in blues and greens.
In comparing these images of Chocquet, it is not easy to define the role of this sketch. A possibility yet to be explored is that it was made from the earlier portrait. If this were the case, Cezanne could here be using drawing to help him transition between the youthful photograph and older portraits of his friend.
Kunsthalle, Basel, , Meisterzeichnungen französischer Künstler von Ingres bis Cézanne, June 29–August 18, 1935, no. 174, as Portrait M. Choquet, 1877, for sale. Kunsthalle, Basel, Paul Cézanne, August 30–October 12, 1936, no. 112, as Bildnis des Dr. Choquet, 1875, lent by Private collection, Basel. San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, Paul Cézanne: Exhibition of Paintings, Water-colors, Drawings and Prints, September 1–October 4, 1937, no. 55, as Portrait de Monsieur Chocquet, c. 1877, lent by Private collection, Basel. Sammlung Oskar Reinhart "am Römerholz," Winterthur, Switzerland, Victor Chocquet: Freund und Sammler der Impressionisten, Renoir, Cézanne, Monet, Manet, February 20–June 7, 2015, no. 21, ill. lent by private collection, courtesy galerie B. Weil Ltd. The Whitworth, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom, Cézanne at the Whitworth, August 20, 2019–March 1, 2020, no. 10, ill., as Victor Chocquet, lent by Estate of Karsten Schubert, on extended loan to The Whitworth, The University of Manchester.
Cézanne, Paul. Correspondance. Edited by John Rewald. Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1937, fig. 22. Andersen, Wayne V. "Cézanne, Tanguy, Choquet [sic]." Art Bulletin 49, no. 2 (June 1967), p. 137, fig. 8. Rewald, John. "Chocquet et Cézanne." Gazette des beaux-arts, vol. 74, periode 6 (July–August 1969), p. 68, fig. 27, date 1879–82. Andersen, Wayne V. Cézanne's Portrait Drawings. Cambridge, MA, London: MIT Press, 1970, no. 211, ill. Chappuis, Adrien. The Drawings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1973, no. 395, ill. as Portrait of Victor Chocquet. Rewald, John. The Paintings of Paul Cézanne, A Catalogue Raisonné, 2 vols. In Collaboration with Walter Feilchenfeldt and Jayne Warman. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996, p. 195, ill. as Portrait de Monsieur Chocquet. Feilchenfeldt, Walter, Jayne Warman, and David Nash. "Portrait de Monsieur Chocquet, 1877–81 (FWN 1727)." The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cezanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné. https://www.cezannecatalogue.com/catalogue/entry.php?id=2053