The Museum of Modern Art presents a major exhibition offering a new look at the celebrated modern artist Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) through close attention to his process in pencil and watercolor and fresh insights into this profoundly original yet lesser-known body of work. “Cézanne Drawing,” is the first major effort in the United States to unite drawings from across the artist’s entire career, tracing the development of his practice on paper and exploring his working methods. More than 200 works on paper—including drawings, sketchbooks, and rarely seen watercolors—will be shown alongside a selection of related oil paintings, drawn from MoMA’s collection as well as public and private collections from around the world. Presented together, these works will reveal how this fundamental figure of modern art—more often recognized as a painter—produced his most radical works on paper. Cézanne Drawing is organized by Jodi Hauptman, Senior Curator, and Samantha Friedman, Associate Curator, with Kiko Aebi, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints. Laura Neufeld, Associate Conservator, David Booth Department of Conservation, is a key collaborator, part of the project’s curatorial-conservation partnership.
Drawing was foundational to Cézanne’s practice from the late 1850s until his death in 1906. Making daily use of loose sheets and sketchbook pages, the artist produced over 2,100 works on paper over the course of his career. Cézanne preferred standard materials that were easily prepared, widely available, and relatively inexpensive: industrially produced pencils, watercolors, and papers, purchased from art suppliers in Aix-en-Provence and Paris. But with few exceptions, he did not undertake drawings as preparatory studies for oil paintings; instead, drawing was an activity of interest and importance in its own right—one that facilitated diligent, daring investigations of surface and depth, line and color, vision and touch, and finish and un-finish. Elaborated over the course of days, weeks, and even years, Cézanne’s works on paper were paramount to his development of a resolutely modern artistic idiom.