Cézanne Masterpiece Acquired by J. Paul Getty Museum
December 1, 1999
LOS ANGELES--The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today the acquisition of Young Italian Woman at a Table (c. 1895-1900) by Paul Cézanne (French, 1839-1906). The painting, acquired from a private collection, will go on view Thursday, December 2. This will be its first appearance in public in the United States in 20 years. John Walsh, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, comments, "This new addition takes us to the chronological limit of our paintings collection around 1900. It looks back to the Renaissance--to the gravity of Italian portraits--and forward to all of our own century, from its Cubist beginnings right through to the re-examination in the 1990s of what modernism means."
The painting is a recognized masterpiece of Cézanne’s last, most influential period. Scott Schaefer, curator of paintings, describes it as "a stunning addition to the Museum’s collection, important for our visitors and for scholars from all over the world. With the extraordinary Impressionist works at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, those in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and now this pivotal addition to our own young collection, Los Angeles is fast becoming a focal point in the U.S. for 19th-century French art."
The painting depicts a young woman seated at a table on which she braces her right elbow, resting her head with her hand cupped around her cheek. She is dressed in the traditional costume of women of the south of France--a white blouse with full sleeves and a yellow scarf crossed in front, tucked into a gathered skirt of intense blue. On the table is spread a colorful cloth which appears in both still-life and figural compositions by Cézanne from the same period. The monumental volume of the young woman is placed in a receding space that is evoked by subtly modulated colors and brushstrokes. The dark folds of her skirt spin out from her waist in a twisting movement, increasing the illusion of deep space. Although her physical presence is compelling, her thoughts and emotions are withheld from the viewer. The mood of withdrawal and melancholy is reinforced by the pose, which has been associated with melancholy since the Renaissance. According to Deborah Gribbon, deputy director and chief curator, "Cézanne used the pose often. Here, it combines with her unreadable face to produce a psychological tension he rarely achieves. This is surely one of Cézanne’s most enigmatic and moving works."
The painting is a rare example of a female portrait by Cézanne. Said to be uncomfortable around women, Cézanne painted relatively few female models, and when he did it was often as seemingly inanimate elements in his still lifes, lacking the psychological dimension of Young Italian Woman. The sitter is thought to be a relative of a professional model who posed for Cézanne around this time.
Barry Munitz, president and chief executive officer of the J. Paul Getty Trust, remarked, "Every visitor to the Getty will be affected by this picture, as it is precisely the artistic and historical object that fits our mission. It will help generations of people understand how Cézanne created a new way to visualize the world, which we now term ‘modern,’ and which leads to so many of our most revered 20th-century painters."
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