From February 4, 2014 to May 18, 2014 the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum presents the first retrospective of Cézanne in Spain in thirty years, since the 1984 MEAC exhibition. The exhibition, curated by Guillermo Solana, includes 58 paintings by the artist -49 oils and 9 watercolors- from museums and private collections around the world (including the United States, Australia or Japan), many unpublished in the country, which are exhibited along with 9 works by other artists such as Pissarro, Gauguin, Bernard, Derain, Braque, Dufy and Lhote. Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was born in Aix-en-Provence, the son of a wealthy hat maker (and later a banker), of whom he will say, not without irony: “My father was a man of genius; He left me an income of 25,000 francs. “
Cézanne was a schoolmate of the future writer Émile Zola, with whom he would maintain an intimate (and complex) friendship for many years. Although by parental desire Cézanne began studying law, he soon moved to Paris to pursue his true vocation, painting. There he befriended Pissarro, ten years older, who will be for him the closest thing to a teacher. He also met Manet and joined the gathering of the Impressionists at the Guerbois café. Since 1863, Cézanne sent his paintings to the Official Salon annually, always in vain. In 1874 he participated in the first exhibition of the Impressionist group, but he only exhibited with them once again, in 1877. Critics considered him the most clumsy and eccentric artist of the group. The denigrating words that critics used to use his painting — brutal, crude, childish, primitive — would eventually become terms of praise for the originality of his work.
While his colleagues, led by Monet and Renoir, were learning success, Cézanne, retired in Aix, continued to be ignored until 1895. Between November and December of that year, his first solo exhibition (about 150 works) in the gallery of the dealer Ambroise Vollard earned him the respect and admiration of his colleagues and made him an essential reference for young painters.
When Paul Cézanne died ten years later, he was already recognized as a crucial figure in modern art. The dominant genre in Cézanne’s work is landscape, which comprises half of his total output and which the painter, like his fellow Impressionists, identifies with the practice of painting in the open air. But, unlike the Impressionists, Cézanne also attaches decisive importance to a genre of the workshop: still life. Throughout his entire career, he cultivated landscape and still life in parallel, which respectively embody the direct encounter with nature and the laboratory of composition.
The subtitle of the exhibition, Site / Non-site, taken from the artist and theorist Robert Smithson, alludes to that dialectic between exterior and interior, between painting in the open air and working in the studio.