Art Historians Discover a Hidden Masterpiece Beneath One of Cézanne’s Art Pieces
French Artist and post-impressionist Paul Cézanne is famous for his influence on modern paintings. He was a painter regarded as the bridge between 19th-century impressionism and 20th-century cubism.
While many categorized his works as controversial and misunderstood, new light has been shed on some of his early pieces, and an X-ray revealed something surprising hidden in his paintings.
Cézanne's Early Life
Paul Cézanne was born into a wealthy family in Aix-en-Provence, France, in 1839. He was born to milliner-turned-banker Louis-Auguste Cézanne and Anne-Elizabeth-Honorine Aubert.
His father co-founded the Banque Cézanne et Cabassol, and his mother was a romantic with a quick temper, which influenced the nature of Cézanne’s art. He also had two younger sisters who he grew up with.
Cézanne's Path to Painting
Due to his family’s wealth and status, he was expected to walk in his father’s footsteps and take up his place in the banking industry, but Cézanne knew that path was not meant for him. Instead, he believed he had a promising future with a career in arts.
Eventually, he convinced his father to let him study painting in Paris, but he abandoned his studies after just five months. Cézanne felt very different from his peers and believed he lacked artistic skills; little did he know that difference would play a huge part in his career.
Cézanne's Early Still Life Paintings
Cézanne’s style of artistry was influenced by famous historical artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Vincent Van Gogh. His artwork was influenced by French romanticism and realism.
One of his early paintings, “Still Life With Bread and Eggs,” displayed in the Cincinnati Art Museum, was done in 1965. The painting portrays a loaf of bread, a metal kettle, two eggs, and a glass cup on a table with a white cloth hanging over a chair.
Turbulent Times Among French Artists
The period when the bread and egg painting was made was a turbulent time, especially among French Artists. Realist painters rejected romanticism and impressionism and criticized them heavily.
This feud led to the opening of an exhibition known as the Salon des Refusés by Emperor Napoleon III in 1863. This exhibition consisted of widely criticized painting styles such as impressionism.
Salon des Refusés
Cézanne was drawn to and influenced by works displayed at the Salon des Refusés, also known as the Exhibition of Rejects.
Artists such as Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, and Johan Jongkind, who had their paintings rejected by the French jury, took up space in the exhibition after protesting their grievances to the Emperor, who was sensitive to public opinions. Cézanne’s paintings at this time used dark and ominous colors in contrast with harsh lights.
A Hunch That Led To The Surprising Reveal
Serena Urry is a chief conservator at the Cincinnati art museum. Before her work at the museum, she was a senior conservator of paintings at the Barnes Foundation and a conservator of paintings at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
While aiding in dismantling some paintings at the Cincinnati Art Museum, including Cézanne’s “Still Life With Bread And Eggs,” she noticed the painting needed some restoration to conserve the historical piece better.
Cracks On Cézanne’s Canvas
While removing the varnish at the top of the paint, Urry noticed a crack in the dark areas of the paintings. These dark parts had white spotted cracks, revealing some issues with layering on the painting.
Layering typically happens when a new painting is done on the background of another. This discovery sparked curiosity in Urry, and she decided to investigate her theory further.
The Face In The Background
To investigate her theory, Urry had the painting X-rayed, and what she found out left her amazed. The investigation revealed a face hidden within the painting. The face can be seen when the painting is turned at a 90-degree angle, and art historians believe the painting to be the portrait of the historical painter.
The painting was also believed to be a painting of the artist in his early 20s at the start of his career.
An Exciting Discovery For Art Historians
Many historians are excited about the discovery as it gives them an insight into Cézanne’s life before his breakthrough into the Salon des Refuses.
This revelation has added tremendous value to the painting and has also triggered further research into more of the Artists’ work.