Hortense Fiquet : a muse in the shadows

Madame Cézanne at the Met show during New York Art Trip 2015 (March 12-15)

New York At Tour 2015, from Ottawa
Photograph of Hortense Fiquet

In 1869, Cézanne started to live with Hortense Fiquet, a bookbinder 11 years younger than him, whom he had met as a model in Paris when he was studying painting. For eight years, Cézanne kept this relationship secret from his father, a prosperous banker in Provence, because he did not want to lose his allowance. In 1872, their son Paul was born and finally in 1886, after 17 years living together, Cézanne married her.

They were indeed an odd couple. Cézanne was a lonesome person, distrusted others and had an enormous fear of physical contact. In addition, until his late fifties he depended on his parents’ stipend for a living. As for Hortense, she did not share Cézanne’s passion for art and literature and she preferred the vibrant life of Paris than the quietness of the Provençal countryside. Being forced to live in the obscurity for so many years, did not help their relationship either.

In spite of all this, Cézanne was fascinated with painting Hortense and painted her over and over. And Hortense was the perfect model who could stay absolutely still for hours and hours. Interestingly, Hortense was always depicted with the same inexpressiveness which accentuated her long oval shaped face. This contributed to the rumours that she was a sour person. But, maybe Cézanne aimed for a neutral face to highlight his research on abstraction and the fragmentation of space.

During New York Art Trip 2015 (March 12-15) we will have the opportunity to see twenty-four of Paul Cézanne’s twenty-nine known portraits of his wife Hortense Fiquet, at the Metropolitan Art. For more information and to register please visit our website at: http://www.walkthearts.com/_art_tours/art_tour_new_york.shtml

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