Artist DNA: Ingres, Cezanne, Pissarro and Matisse


Paul Cezanne, “The-Blue-Vase” 1889

Matisse  recalling a visit to the Salon des Independants with Pissarro, “I can still hear old father Pissarro exclaiming at the Independants, in front of a very beautiful still life by Cezanne, representing a blue water pot in fluted glass in the style of Neopoleon III, a harmony in blue, ‘It’s so like Ingres!’ Once I got over my surprise, I found — and I still   find — that he was right.” The painting gave birth to Matisse’s painting, “The Blue Window.” [Hilary Spurling, “The Unknown Matisse”]


Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, “Princesse Albert de Broglie”



Henri Matisse, “The BLue Window”


While Hilary Spurling believes that the quote is referring to Cezanne’s “The Blue Vase”, I believe that since it is described as  being in the style of Napoleon III, Matisse is referring instead to this painting of a vase of flowers.  The relationship to Ingres seems more obvious, too.


Cezanne - Vase of Flowers

Cezanne, “Vase of Flowers”

Books of Interest:

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Or order from your local independent books seller. Mine is Battenkill Books. Find the independent bookstore closest to you at



Cezanne’s Hat

A couple of years ago, I made an extremely short visit to the south of France, which basically left me with one day to do something special. A friend threw me into his car and said that there was a Cezanne show in Aix-en-Provence and he was taking me.

As we headed west from Nice just as we passed La Napoule the landscape turned from white to red. The colors along the coast are very specific to the locations: the ultramarine blue of the water around Antibe, the white hills behind Nice, the Prussian blue of the water near St. Tropez and the deep rust red of the landscape along the coast. As you head inland toward Aix, the red modulates to ochre and rust dotted with the deep green of the pines.

Seeing Cezanne in Aix gives you the double whammy of seeing his work and then immediately observing the landscape that inspired it.

After the exhibition we searched for Cezanne’s studio, which had  been restored and opened to the public through the efforts of James Lord and John Rewald. I am a big fan of both Lord, who wrote an extraordinary biography of Giacometti and Rewald, whose texts on Impressionism and Post-Impressionism are must reads for anyone interested in the subject.

Cezanne’s Studio

When we arrived at the studio, despite the fact that it was supposed to be open that day, it was CLOSED! They were having a special viewing of it for the Smithsonian — damn Yankees!! And was closed to the public. My friend was undeterred and told them in no uncertain terms that I was an artist (something that matters to the French) and I had come all the way from America just to see the studio. Whatever else he said, I don’t know, but moments later I was ushered into the studio.

Cezanne's Studio

Exterior of Cezanne’s Studio

Cezanne exiting his studio with a chair

The studio was painted a dark gray (darker than it appears in the photos) made by mixing peach black, yellow ocher and little white. I know. I asked. There was a small window facing south and a large one to the north. On the back wall were items Cezanne used in his still lifes: a skull, a plaster of a putti, some vases, bowls and apples. There was also his small table that frequently appears in his still lifes.

Interior of Cezanne’s Studio

The back wall of Cezanne’s studio

Plaster Putti

paint box

Cezanne’s Paint Box

In the north wall was a tall slender “door”, perhaps a foot wide, where he would slide his large canvases in and out of the studio. He built it to accommodate his huge paintings of bathers.

studio door

Small door can be seen left of the stove. No, not that one. Keep going. To the left of the picture on the wall that is left of the stove.

Through the windows you could see the large pine trees, which are often two feet in diameter, that are typical of the region. They are the trees that appear in the bathing paintings.

Cezann’es Bathers

In the corner of the room on  a coat rack were his hat and coat, just as he had left them. What I would have given to put on his coat and hat.

Cezanne'e Coat Rack

Cezanne’s Coat Rack


If you go:

Cezanne’s Studio

Books, books, and more books:

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