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Portrait of Madame Cézanne
Portrait of Madame Cézanne, 1885-87
Paul Cézanne, French
Oil on canvas
18 1/8 x 15 1/16 inches (46 x 38.3 cm) Frame: 26 5/8 × 23 5/8 × 3 7/8 inches (67.6 × 60 × 9.8 cm)
The Louis E. Stern Collection, 1963
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Let’s Look

  • Who is this woman?
  • What kind of expression is on her face?
  • What colors do you see in her face?
  • What is happening in the background?
  • Is this painting finished or unfinished?

Let’s Look Again

  • Where do you think Madame Cézanne is sitting—indoors or outside? Why?
  • Opinions about the expression on Madame Cézanne’s face vary. What is yours?
    Why? Consider the tilt of her head, the look in her eyes, and the way she is holding her mouth.
  • Opinions also vary on how Cézanne felt about painting his wife. Some think that he treated her like a still life, an arrangement of objects on a table. (He once told a person whose portrait he was painting to “remain still like an apple. Does an apple fidget?”) Others see great tenderness in the artist’s pictures of his wife. After debating, express your opinion by taking a class vote on this issue.


Hands-on Activities

  • Have you noticed how Madame Cézanne’s head is shaped like an egg and her neck is shaped like a cylinder? Draw an egg shape and a cylinder shape. Make them look three-dimensional by adding some shading.
  • List the colors you see in the shadows on Madame Cézanne’s face. Now list the shadow colors you see in the face of the person next to you. Make another list of the new shadow colors you see when the two of you move to another part of the room or sit near a window.
  • Make some thick patches of red, yellow, green, and blue using oil pastels on paper. Then color over each patch with white oil pastel. Notice how this changes the original colors to lighter ones. Do any of these light colors match the colors in the painting? Try to make them match as close as you can.

Writing Activities

  • Write definitions for the following words used in the Overview: contours, reluctantly, highlights, palette knife, model, dramatically, tones, perceptions, carefree. Choose five of these words and use them to write a paragraph describing who or what you would like to paint—a portrait, a landscape, or a still life—and why.
  • Madame Cézanne spent many long hours posing for her husband. What do you think she thought about? Take five-minute turns posing and sketching with a partner. Write a paragraph describing what you thought about while posing.
  • Cézanne was a moody, passionate man who often felt misunderstood. Write an interior monologue about times in your life when you have felt misunderstood.

For more information, please contact The Division of Education by phone at (215) 684-7580, by fax at (215) 236-4063, or by e-mail at .

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