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Paul Cezanne Famous Paintings to Look Out For at the Musee D’Orsay

The Musée d’Orsay in Paris is an incredible art museum, boasting of the largest collection of French and European art produced in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, it is the largest impressionism art museum in the world . This place is a MUST visit for anyone with an interest in more modern art. The Musee D’Orsay owns a massive art collection & it is impossible to see everything in one visit. But whatever you manage to see will blow your mind away!

In this article, I am focusing on the artist Paul Cezanne and some of his famous artworks in this museum. The D’Orsay owns an impressive art collection of Paul Cezanne paintings & is therefore a MUST for all Cezanne fans. Below is a list of five famous Paul Cezanne paintings hanging on the walls of the Musee D’Orsay.

The Iconic Cezanne Artworks that you should not miss at the Musee D’Orsay Museum

1. Card Players

This painting, on display at the Musee D’Orsay, depicts a group of peasants playing cards in a dimly lit room. It is significant for its unique composition and use of color, as well as its exploration of the theme of human relationships and leisure. Cezanne painted this piece in his late period, showcasing his experimentation with bold brushstrokes and a more loose, expressive style.

Card Players - One of Paul Cezanne Famous Paintings at the Musee D'Orsay
Card Players – One of Paul Cezanne Famous Paintings at the Musee D’Orsay
Painted je between the years 1890 and 1895

The Card Players is actually a series of five oil paintings that Cezanne painted during the later period of his artistic life. Each painting captures locals in deep concentration while playing a game of cards & smoking pipes. Many of these men, were actually workers and gardeners at the Cézanne family estate, at the Jas de Bouffan.

During Paul Cezanne’s lifetime, the art world did not appreciate his paintings. It was only decades later that he and his artworks gained recognition for their greatness & contribution to the art world.

In 2011, one of the “Card Players” paintings sold for an astonishing price of $250 million to private owners in the Royal family of Qatar. This painting was the most expensive painting ever sold, and not surpassed until November 2017.

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2. Montagne Sainte-Victoire

This landscape painting, also on display at the Musee D’Orsay, features a view of the Mont Sainte-Victoire in France. It is significant for its bold brushstrokes and use of color, as well as its exploration of the theme of nature and the beauty of the French countryside. Cezanne created this painting during his middle period, highlighting his interest in the landscape genre and his experimentation with color and composition.

Paul Cezanne Famous Paintings at the Musee D'Orsay
Montagne Sainte-Victoire
Paul Cezanne Famous Paintings at the Musee D’Orsay

Mont Sainte-Victoire is a beautiful limestone mountain which can be viewed from practically every spot in Cezanne’s city of Aix-en-Provence. Paul Cezanne loved this mountain and painted it more than 80 times between the years of 1882 and 1906. He painted the mountain from different perspectives, in different seasons, at various times of day and using different painting styles.

Today, the art world consider the Mont Sainte-Victoire paintings as some of the greatest landscapes ever painted, and influencing later generations of modern artists.

In Paul Cezanne’s paintings of the mountain, he used mostly using oil paints, but sometimes watercolors too. He painted with different hues of colors in order to capture the changing seasons & the seasonal fauna colors on the white limestone mountain and its surroundings.

Sometimes Cezanne painted in an impressionistic-like style using softer, muted colors. Other times he painted the mountain view using geometric forms and bolder colors, laying the foundation to the later cubism art movement.

3. The Gulf of Marseilles Seen from L’Estaque

Paul Cezanne first visited the fishing village of L’Estaque in the mid-1860s. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), he sought refuge in this pretty, fishing village, located between the mountains and the sea .

Upon Cezanne’s return to L’Estaque in the summer of 1876, he wrote to his friend and fellow artist Camille Pissarro:

Paul Cezanne painted around twenty paintings of L’Estaque over the next decade, many of them focusing on the gulf of Marseilles.

The Gulf of Marseilles Seen from L'Estaque
Paul Cezanne painting entitled: The Gulf of Marseilles Seen from L’Estaque

This particular painting is set at a bay in L’Estaque with a viewpoint that gives a viewer to look down over the bay and perceive the richness of the bay. The details of this painting are clearly outlined in his letter to his teacher and friend Camille Pissarro.

“It is like a playing card. Red roofs over the blue sea. . . . 

CEZANNE TO PISSARRO

From the letter, Cezanne is seen to compare the view of the pay to that of a playing card because of the simplicity in colours and shapes that really fascinated him. The configuration of the landscape had him enthused. He divided the painting into zones of four-water, sky, mountain and the architecture.

The Bay of Marseille seen from L’Estaque was the first of Cézanne’s work to enter the French national collections thanks to a bequest by Gustave Caillebotte in 1894. The painting did not impress the visitors at the Musée du Luxembourg, which was at the time a museum for living artists. However, other artists who saw this piece applauded it as a masterpiece and groundbreaking. 

4. Apples and Oranges Still Life

Paul Cezanne Famous painting entitled: Apples and Oranges, Painted around 1899
Paul Cezanne Painting entitled: Apples and Oranges, Painted around 1899

Though Cézanne painted still life compositions from the start of his career, it was only in later years that this genre began to occupy an essential place in his work. Apples and Oranges belongs to this period.

This painting forms part of a series of six still lifes produced in 1899 in Cézanne’s Parisian studio. Each painting features the same accessories: earthenware dishes and a jug decorated with a floral motif. Their arrangement is also similar, with a draped cloth, reminiscent of 17th century Flemish still lifes, closing the perspective. However, the dynamic effect created by a complex spatial construction and Cézanne’s subjective perception of the arranged objects illustrate his essentially pictorial approach.

As with many of his artworks, Cézanne brings new life to a genre traditional in French painting. Apples and Oranges, combines modernity and sumptuous beauty. It is the most important still life produced by an artist in the late 1890’s.

5. Five Bathers

Paul Cézanne famous painting at the Musee D'Orsay,
Paul Cézanne famous painting at the Musee D’Orsay,
Five bathers, painted between 1900 and 1904

This painting, also on display at the Musee D’Orsay, depicts a group of nude figures lounging by a river. It is significant for its unique composition and use of color, as well as its exploration of the theme of human relationships and the human form. Cezanne painted this piece during his middle period, showcasing his interest in the nude genre and his experimentation with color and composition. Today the art world considers this painting a key work in the development of modern art.

From the 1870s until the end of his life, Cézanne created quite a few versions of the bathers theme, painting both male and female. His great aim was to achieve a complete fusion of the human figure and the landscape.

Cezanne did not focus on the flesh, as Renoir did, but rather on the bodies which powerfully structure the space. The theme of water is left aside and the world of the painting remains essentially mineral. Only the smooth, delicately iridescent substance of the clouds recalls Cezanne’s attachment to Impressionism.

See below for more articles about Paul Cezanne.