R384 – Portrait de l’artiste au chapeau de paille, 1878-1879 (FWN446)

Pavel Machotka

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Portrait de l’artiste au chapeau de paille

Somewhat earlier than Portrait de l’artiste, the Portrait de l’artiste au chapeau de paille breathes youth and self-assurance[1]. In this self-portrait, almost certainly painted at the Jas de Bouffan in front of the wallpaper we saw in the 1870 Jeune fille au piano–ouverture de Tannhaeuser, he poses in the indispensable straw hat (in the South of France), and finds several shapes coming together to suggest linear, decorative handling: the Paisley-like swirls of the wallpaper, the brim of the hat, and the curl of his hair. With line as the dominant principle, he also smoothes out the shape of the nose and eyes and simplifies the outline of the beard and mustache. As colorful as the painting seems to be, he actually uses color very economically: he assimilates two nearby colors to each other (the yellows of the hat with the brown-yellows of the background) and then does the modeling with greens. He positions the head in a way that he often favors, lit from behind and to the side, casting part of the face in shadow but leaving the nose in full light—offering enough play of light for very plastic treatment, but also enough shadow for the eyes to remain relaxed and the expression unforced and self-confident.

[1] Rewald’s date of 1878-79 (PPC, p. 253) seems to me too late. It would place the self-portrait with R385, where Cézanne’s beard begins to show grey, and where the touches begin to be parallel; on both grounds, this self-portrait must be earlier.

Source: Machotka, Cézanne: the Eye and the Mind.

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