Wednesday, February 9, 2011
"Cezanne's Card Players": Small Show, Big Punch
The Met's version includes three of Cezanne's five "Card Players" -- an ambitious series that occupied him from about 1891 to 1896 -- twelve preparatory drawings and oil studies for the series, and five portraits thought to be of agricultural workers on his estate, some of whom also posed for the "Card Players."
That's it, twenty works. But it's enough.
These works, some marvelous in themselves, show the rich traditions that Cezanne, a devoted student of the Louvre when he lived in Paris, was surely aware of. There's a print after Caravaggio's "Cardsharps," rollicking tavern scenes by Dutch and Flemish artists (Adriaen Brouwer's of around 1636 is above), caricatures by Daumier, and a couple of etchings by Manet -- a hint of the world we are about to enter.
By turns moralizing, anecdotal, amusing, these works are everything that Cezanne was not, and set a framework for seeing his modernism afresh.
This theory is wonderfully consistent with the artifice in the finished compositions -- the tables much too small, the proportions of the figures totally out of whack, drapery that makes no sense except pictorially.
"Cezanne's Card Players," Metropolitan Museum of Art, 5th Avenue and 82nd Street. Through May 8.
Images: Meissonier and bottom two portraits, Laura Gilbert. All others courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.