Cezanne’s sketchbooks abound with images of his family – especially his partner, Hortense Fiquet, whom he met at art school in 1869, and their son, Paul, born in January 1872.
This drawing of his son (on the right) dates to a tumultuous period in the artist’s personal life. His longstanding friendship with Émile Zola broke down a month before Cezanne married Hortense on 28 April 1886. The couple’s already strained relationship disintegrated later the same year, following the death of the artist’s father, Louis-Auguste. The drawings of Paul fils maintain a sense of paternal affection. By the age of 14 or 15, as in this drawing, the artist’s son was a practised sitter for both drawings and oil paintings.
The preponderance of drawings of Paul fils asleep, as here, or absorbed in another activity such as reading, probably relates to his father’s insistence on his model’s complete stillness. When Cezanne’s dealer Ambroise Vollard sat for his portrait, the artist exclaimed: ‘Do I have to tell you again you must sit like an apple? Does an apple move?’ While some critics considered Cezanne uninterested in the differences between the contours of a head and those of an apple, the caring sketches of his son suggest otherwise.
The other drawing on this sheet, the head of an unidentified infant, is less developed. Just above it, a line indicates an aban- doned first attempt at tracing the crown of the child’s head. The infant is seen from below at a challenging three-quarter view. Cezanne carefully outlines the features, repeating strokes on the right side of the face to build shadow.
A similar technique is used on the profile of Paul, but other parts of his face are modelled with pencil hatching. Around the back of the head and in the shadow of his collar the artist has added indentations with a stylus or similar instrument. The blue paper – a rarity among Cezanne’s drawings – ensures the contrast between light and shade is subtler than if it were on a white support.
The Whitworth Art Gallery, Machester, Cézanne at the Whitworth, 24 August 2019–1 March 2020, pp. 64–65, no. 12 (ill. col.).
Venturi, Lionello. Cézanne: Son Art, Son Oeuvre. Paris: Editions Paul Rosenberg, 1936, no. 1290, ill. vol. II, erroneously described as "Page XXVIII v.." Chappuis, Adrien. The Drawings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1973, no. 862, ill. as Study of heads. Feilchenfeldt, Walter, Jayne Warman, and David Nash. "Etudes de têtes: Paul Cezanne fils et un enfant, c.1886–87 (FWN 3008-29b)." The Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings of Paul Cezanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné. https://www.cezannecatalogue.com/catalogue/entry.php?id=2542