Paul Cézanne
(Aix-en-Provence, 1839-1906, Aix-en-Provence)
The Boy in the Red Waistcoat, ca. 1888/90
Oil on canvas, 79.5 x 64 cm
Rewald 658
While the "Self-Portrait with Palette" concentrated on severe clarity of form with deliberate reduction of chromatic effects, "The Boy in the Red Waistcoat" is apparently wholly dedicated to colour. The very costume demands this, traditional Italian dress, with red waistcoat, blue kerchief and blue belt; also the long backswept hair reinforces the picturesque effect, even though it closely reveals the shape of the head, as is typical of Cézanne. Also picturesque is the forward-leaning posture and the head supported on the left hand, this diagonal dominating the picture and reinforced by the diagonally hanging deepgreen curtain at the left and still another diagonal running from lower left up behind the elbow. These diagonals are caught up by the opposite diagonals formed by the thighs and the right arm resting thereon and the left lower arm supporting the head. The endlessly rich, dense and festive chromatics of the first powerful impression are embedded in a tightly articulated structure of intersecting diagonals, which – and this again is typical of Cézanne – do not lead into the picture but remain at the surface, and reinforce this surface. There is a perfect balance here of high compositional intelligence and spontaneous painterly intuition. The critic Gustave Geffroy said of this painting as early as 1895 that it could stand comparison with the finest figure paintings of the Old Masters. Cézanne painted this model four times at the beginning of the 1890s, and did one water-colour of him, presumably in Paris on the Rue d’Anjou; the same interior appears in portraits of the artist’s wife.