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Paul Cézanne's self-portrait in the Bührle Collection is the artist's largest self-portrait. Painted around the age of fifty, it shows him at work, standing in front of an easel. The canvas mounted on a stretcher can only be seen from the back. The rectangular palette is tilted conspicuously towards the viewer, showing traces of paint on it that merge into abstract blurs of colour. The composition is dominated by the bright background, which dims around the standing figure, shown in three-quarter view. It seems likely that the artist has simply shown himself in the bare interior of his studio in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. This would be consistent with his casual style of clothing, with an open collarless shirt here is no Grand Master presented to his admiring public, but a craftsman giving a glimpse behind the scenes to a chosen few.
Right up until the end of his life, Cézanne did not become more than an insider tip within the art world. This was partly because he generally worked far away from Paris, where all of his few admirers lived. He did, however, live to see one of his paintings purchased by a museum. In 1897, Hugo von Tschudi bought a landscape by Cézanne for the National Gallery in Berlin. A short while after the artist's death, he became broadly recognised as one of the greatest modern painters. Artists in many countries began looking to his work for inspiration, while demand from collectors all over the world caused the prices fetched by his paintings to rise rapidly.