bookmarking madame Cézanne


every available fact about Paul Cézanne’s paintings now in one place – online

A small, but nonetheless glorious exhibition entitled Madame Cézanne opened November 19, 2014 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and runs through March 15, 2015. The show traces the painter’s “lifelong attachment to Hortense Fiquet (1850–1922), his wife, the mother of his only son, and his most painted model. Featuring twenty-four of the artist’s twenty-nine known portraits of Hortense, the exhibition explores the profound impact she had on Cézanne’s portrait practice.”

Referring to the couple’s somewhat mysterious relationship, the exhibition’s curator and catalog co-author Dita Amory says,

“. . . we know that Cézanne painted from observation and painted very slowly. If you take the sum total of these paintings, you realize that they spent a great deal of time together in the studio, and yet we have enormous difficulty understanding or even finding evidence of time they spent together in other circumstances as husband and wife. This facet of their relationship has been a fascinating, irreconcilable observation of this book and exhibition.”[1]

Have you seen the show yet? Won’t be able to make it? Don’t despair—you can see the exhibition online anytime (minus the watercolors). Simply login to The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: An Online Catalogue Raisonné. This free, visually stunning and fully integrated website was officially launched in November 2014. The site is of immense benefit to students, scholars, curators, collectors, galleries, and auction houses as well as anyone who wants to learn more about one of the most revered and influential painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

After logging in, look for the Met’s exhibition. You’ll find it along with every painting in it (the watercolors are coming!), in the order they appear in the Museum catalog, each represented by a large, digital, color image. If you wish, you can choose to see the works as a group in sizes scaled relative one to the other—a virtual exhibition on your screen. Bookmark the show, so you can go back to see it whenever you wish, just by looking in your personal Bookmark Collection on the website.

Then, click on the title of each work, and you’ll find it has a full entry, which includes the work’s physical characteristics, its provenance (ownership history), its known exhibition history to date, a complete list of published references, and links to similar works in the catalogue. Lastly, at the top of the exhibition page, you’ll find a link to the Met’s exhibition catalog and a link to each of the eight essays that appear in it.

Two of the online catalogue’s three authors, Jayne Warman and Walter Feilchenfeldt, worked with John Rewald on the 1996 print version of the catalogue raisonné. But, it was co-author David Nash’s innovative idea four years ago to re-publish all the works in color. His initial idea of producing a printed full-color supplement to the print catalogue rapidly gave way to the more ambitious project of updating and revising the Rewald catalogue and putting the new research online.

The Cézanne website was designed by panOpticon. What began as an extensive database evolved into a comprehensive online experience—a fully integrated site with innovative features such as links between the works, the collections, the exhibitions and the published references; advanced filtering and search capabilities, including a powerful set of keywords in English and French; the capacity to see all the paintings in sizes relative one to the other; as well as the ability for the user to see early exhibitions virtually recreated.

I am the last to even suggest that art online is a substitute for seeing the real thing, especially in a context as special as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But, what you can get from this online catalogue raisonné, I promise, will surprise and delight you.

[1] Read the full interview with Ms. Amory on the Met Museum blog. Find the Madame Cézanne exhibition catalog on the Museum’s website.

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Roger Shepherd is the Creative Director of panOpticon.

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Roger Shepherd
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