Paul Cézanne’s (1839–1906) portraits of Hortense Fiquet (1850–1922), his wife and the subject of some of his iconic portraits, rank among the most powerful of their kind in French modernism. Yet, posterity has not been kind to Madame Cézanne. She was called a distraction, blamed for her husband’s “lackluster” landscapes, and disdained for her impenetrable expression in the paintings. The reality is more complex, for while Fiquet may not have been the passion of Cézanne’s lifetime, she was a willing accomplice, as model, mother of his only son, and unwavering partner against all odds.
Madame Cézanne examines this unique relationship as it looks at Cézanne the painter, draftsman, and portraitist. Featuring 24 of Cézanne’s oil portraits of Fiquet and most of the known drawings, Madame Cézanne both reevaluates, with insight and compassion, the long-held misconceptions about the Cézannes’ unconventional marriage, and shows how Cézanne’s portraits of his wife provide a lens through which to better understand his overall technique.