- Artist: Paul Cézanne
- Creation date: Ca. 1899
- Object type: Painting
Unlike most of the people who feature in Paul Cézanne’s paintings, the subject of Seated Man is unknown. Is he a friend of the artist? Perhaps an acquaintance from the neighbourhood? When and where the painting was created also remains a mystery.
The man fills most of the picture. The edge of a seat between the man’s legs barely suggests the chair he is sitting on; it is probably a stool, or else the back of a chair is hidden behind the man’s ample torso. He is seen from the front, but his gaze is turned away from us. On the man’s right-hand side is a chest of drawers, placed in a way that enhances the painting’s sense of depth. On the wall behind the man hangs an element that is familiar from several of Cézanne’s paintings: a patterned, draped textile. The drapery does not have a natural purpose in the room – it is neither a curtain nor a portière. Rather, it has only a formal function, in that it helps create variation in the picture plane.
Cézanne’s innovative solution for canvas paintings was to ignore the conventional central perspective and instead attempt to create an illusion of space by other means, such as the use of varied hues and overlapping. Cézanne scholars often focus on this spatial manipulation, and there is the sense that the artist was solely concerned with the formal problems of art. Though such problems were obviously of prime interest for Cézanne, this focus should not distract us from the substantive, expressive aspects of a work such as Seated Man.
Seated Man won immediate acclaim from the symbolist painter Odilon Redon, who became the painting’s first owner.
Born 1839 in Aix-en-Provence, Provence, death 1906 in Aix-en-Provence, Provence