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Courtauld Institute

The Courtauld Institute has just reopened after a £60m refit. It was a lovely gallery to walk through and by all accounts the new layout makes that experience even better.

The gallery has many fabulous paintings one of my favourites is Cezanne’s Card Players. It is from a series of five paintings by him about the same theme.

Each painting in Cezanne's series shows two or more Provencal peasants quietly smoking their pipes and playing cards. They were mostly modelled on workers from the Cezanne family estate known as Le Jas de Bouffan, many of whom came to sit for him over the years, including an old gardener known as 'le pere Alexandre' and a farm worker by the name of Paulin Paulet - both of whom appear in the two card-player versions of the subject. At any rate, unlikethe drunken, rowdy peasants memorialized in the seventeenth century paintings of the Dutch Realist School of genre painting (1600-1700), Cezanne's peasants are all studiously intent on the card game in front of them, and make no attempt at conversation. There is no excitement or melodrama. On the contrary, Cezanne's figure painting conveys a sense of timless tranquility throughout the series. In his book "Cezanne. A Study of His Development" (1927), the art critic Roger Fry (1866-1934), a leading authority on Post-Impressionism, described Cezanne's card players as having such an extraordinary sense of monumental gravity that they have found their true centre and can never be moved.


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