Creative Visionary Paul Cezanne

Table of Content

A comparison and analysis of Goya’s Don Sebastian Martinez y Perez” (1792) and Cezanne’s “Portrait of Ambroise Vollard” (1899).

Considered an artistic visionary and major influence on Cubism, Paul Cezanne’s use of color, perspective, and structure greatly inspired 20th-century art. His planar compositions influenced Picasso’s development of Cubism, while other artists such as Matisse admired his innovative use of color. Cezanne was fascinated by structure and the way paintings can evoke elements in nature. He frequently employed slight variations in color and geometrical forms such as cones, cylinders, and spheres – which he found abundant in nature – in his portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. Through the use of space and color, he projected a wide range of expression.

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Cezanne produced numerous portraits, which were considered still lifes due to his meticulous insistence that his subjects remain absolutely still. However, this particular fetish proved to be a nightmare for Cezanne. Known for being extremely impatient and quick-tempered, he painted very slowly. As a result, the subjects of his portraits generally look grave and tired.

For one portrait of art dealer Ambroise Vollard, it was reported that Vollard sat 140 times without moving during the sessions. However, Cezanne eventually became dissatisfied with his work and abandoned the project with only two spots left unpainted. To Vollard’s horror, Cezanne informed him that he would only finish the painting when he found the proper color for those spots. He believed that even a single brush stroke could unbalance the entire portrait.

Cezanne was so disgruntled with his work on this piece that he told Vollard that the only thing about it that pleased him was how he rendered the white shirt worn by Vollard.

In Cezanne’s eyes, it didn’t matter whether he was painting a person or a bowl of fruit. The only difference was the palette and reflection value used in the painting. Ultimately, both the fruit and person would wilt.

The Portrait of Ambroise Vollard is a prime example of how Cezanne’s awareness of underlying structure was manifested in his paintings. Most of his later work is more sparingly composed and open, infused with a sense of light and air. The light coming from the window behind Ambroise Vollard provides this effect. As with Cezanne’s other paintings, the portrait does not give any indication of the exact time of day or season. Light streams in from behind Vollard’s shoulder, but the golden orange color it casts may indicate that the day is nearing either dusk or dawn. The background is created through perspective and subtle differences in tone. Dark tones are used for both Vollard’s suit and chair he sits on, but washes of brown on the seat and fluid strokes of white around Vollard’s outline provide contrast between them.

Cezanne was known for his use of color to evoke vision and passion. In the Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, he used dark somber tones to suggest a feeling of solemnity. However, the sharp golden and amber highlights provide contrast and dimension. The artist also used his brush strokes to create structure and lend firmness to his portraits. In Ambroise Vollard, he made use of broad, heavy strokes to build structure as well as light, fluid strokes to outline and give contrast.

Francisco de Goya is often recognized as one of the best Spanish artists and one of the leading proponents of modern art. For him, the artist’s vision was more important than the subject, and this new ideology helped art evolve from the usual religious paintings and commissioned portraits. Like Cezanne, Goya is hailed as one of the most important artists of his time, influencing others like Manet and Picasso.

Goya’s career spanned more than 60 years. He initially dabbled in Baroque art and eventually came up with his own innovative style. His assorted sketches, paintings, and engravings mirrored current historical issues. He was a court painter like Velazquez but produced his best works apart from those he made for the Spanish court.

He was well-known for his uncompromising portrayals of violence, particularly those induced by the French invasion of Spain.

Goya’s modernistic approach is evident in the bold techniques he used to create his paintings, the poignant satire in his sketches, and his philosophy that an artist’s vision is more important than the subject. Don Sebastian Martinez y Perez” was created during a time when Goya had established himself as a portrait painter for Spanish nobility. In this painting, Don Sebastian appears as realistic as possible with clearly defined and detailed clothes and features. At the time of creating this portrait, Goya was mainly interested in portraying his clients realistically without reference to social climate. To achieve a natural look, Goya used light fluid strokes and blended harmonious colors into each other. He also utilized subtle differences in tone to create depth and perspective.

Both the Portrait of Ambroise Vollard and Don Sebastian Martinez y Perez are painted using very restricted palettes. In Ambroise Vollard, Cezanne utilizes dark hues such as black, brown, and olive with lighter ones like white, orange, gold, and yellow. Similarly, Goya’s Don Sebastian is painted using shades of brown, orange, white, and gold with contrasts provided by strokes of blue, black and gray. However, there is a remarkable difference in the way the colors are applied. The colors in Don Sebastian blend fluidly into each other creating a more harmonious appearance which gives the portrait a more realistic look compared to Ambroise Vollard which appears more abstract as Cezanne has used colors to depict planes and shapes within the portrait.

Cezanne responded to the lack of structure in Impressionist works by devising a method of using color to create planes and geometrical shapes in his paintings. In Ambroise Vollard, he used broad strokes of peach, yellow, orange and brown to create a background for the subject. The subject himself is rendered through quick, geometric strokes of olive, white and gold.

Cezanne’s brushstrokes create a spatial illusion that contrasts with Goya’s Don Sebastian, which provides a rather uncomplicated sense of dimension. In Don Sebastian, the subject is placed against a flat background that appears to have no depth due to a liquid wash of white outlining the subject. On the other hand, in Ambroise Vollard, the viewer can see that the subject is sitting near the corner of a room because Cezanne has created a complex illusion of spaces and edges.

This is achieved through straight dark lines running parallel and opposite each other at angles to depict two walls forming an L-shape. Dark lines also show that these walls are separated into two colors: peach and orange for the upper half and dark brown for the bottom half. The wall behind Vollard is further emphasized through continuing horizontal lines into a surface behind him.

In Ambroise Vollard, the subject sits directly facing the viewer, but the chair they sit on is difficult to discern due to its dark tones blending with the background. On the other hand, in Don Sebastian, both the subject and chair face towards the left and are clearly defined against their background. Despite these disparities, Goya and Cezanne both employ dark tones and fluid brushstrokes to create structure in their portraits.

Another point to consider is the difference between Goya’s and Cezanne’s portrayal of their subjects. Cezanne viewed his portraits as still lifes, while Goya did not. Upon careful examination, one can feel a sense of irresoluteness from Cezanne’s Portrait of Ambroise Vollard. In contrast, Cezanne’s Don Sebastian Martinez y Perez appears complete and absolute. Perhaps the disturbing feeling of uncertainty that Ambroise Vollard evokes can be attributed to the fact that the portrait is essentially unfinished and that Cezanne intended for it to remain so. He had discarded the painting after failing to find suitable colors for the untouched areas on the canvas. However, it could also be due to the grim and solemn expression on the subject’s face or because of the somber effect created by dark washes in the portrait.

The viewer will notice that in Ambroise Vollard, the subject’s eyes appear to be merely two black holes with subtle outlines of circles for the irises. This gives the subject and consequently, the entire painting a sense of detachment. The grim-faced man, in his stiff pose and with his eyes represented as two pools of black, seems intimidating and even frightening. If we believe that the portrayal of the subject in the portrait is a direct response to Cezanne’s perception of him in real life, then Cezanne must have seen his art dealer Ambroise Vollard as a grim and daunting man.

On the other hand, Goya’s Don Sebastian Martinez y Perez appears lifelike and regal. The subject’s posture is straight but not stiff, and he has an open, amiable look on his face. The colors of his clothing also affect the viewer’s perception. His mustard yellow breeches and blue-striped jacket call to mind not only the fact that the subject is probably a member of the nobility but also that the artist sees him as a dignified and good-natured man. In fact, the paper that the subject is holding reads Don Sebastian Martinez by his friend Goya 1792″ (source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

In the Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, Cezanne abandoned central perspective and defied convention by leaving unpainted spots and spaces on the canvas. Two unpainted spots can be seen on Vollard’s right hand. His approach was to take immediate sensory perception and structure it into his intended vision through the use of abstractions in form and color. Cezanne, often hailed as the “father of modern art,” was reaching out for a kind of modernity that did not yet exist, according to art historian Lawrence Gowing ( In Ambroise Vollard, Cezanne’s revolutionary use of color as tone and fixation on elements of composition are evident.

On the other hand, Goya’s Don Sebastian Martinez y Perez is a study in realism. It is a portrait in the true sense of the word, with no abstractions. Goya’s goal was simply to render Don Sebastian as lifelike as possible. During his time as a tapestry painter, Goya became interested in traditional themes and began creating pictorial studies of his subjects (Tomlinson, 1989). Don Sebastian was commissioned during this period when Goya was beginning to observe daily life. As such, the portrait contains no commentary or allusions to the subject’s lifestyle or clothing. Instead, it is detailed and smooth – exactly what the client wanted. It wasn’t until after the war that Goya would begin depicting social conditions and portraying social awareness in his work.

This brings us to another difference between Don Sebastian Martinez y Perez and Portrait of Ambroise Vollard. Goya’s Don Sebastian was meticulously created, filled with details, and appeared as even and realistic as possible since it was commissioned by an aristocrat. The portrait has numerous details such as the blue and yellow stripes in his dark jacket resembling water flowing over a dark river bed, the lace in his white shirt like fine clouds. Other features are painstakingly rendered including the buttons on the subject’s jacket and breeches, a hint of white at his cuff, a glimpse of his waistband, wisps of his hair, and the striations on the fabric of his seat cushion. Even the words in the paper that he is holding are clearly visible.

In contrast, Cezanne’s Ambroise Vollard is shrouded in darkness, highlighted only by rays of golden light coming from a window. There are few details here, and even the features of the subject’s face are not clearly defined. The viewer must look closer to see where the subject’s mouth is amidst his beard and mustache and where the chair is amidst the dark background. It is also unclear whether he is holding a sheaf of papers, a magazine, or some other paraphernalia.

Both Goya and Cezanne are considered major influences on art forms that succeeded their own, as well as on artists who lived during and after their time. They have been hailed as fathers of modern art” due to their revolutionary techniques in color and structure, as well as their individual philosophies. Therefore, both Goya’s Don Sebastian Martinez y Perez and Cezanne’s Portrait of Ambroise Vollard are pioneering works.

There are many similarities between the two paintings. Both showcase techniques unique to their respective creators and both are portraits of people whom the artists had friendships with. Neither portrait gives any indication of the time of day or season. Don Sebastian is set in a studio without any hint of the outdoors, while Ambroise Vollard is set in a room, possibly a café, with light streaming in from outside. However, this light does not give any indication of the time of day either.

In both portraits, the subjects are seated and holding something in their hands. Don Sebastian and Vollard are depicted wearing typical clothing from their respective eras, and painted in a way that reflects the artist’s perception of them in real life.

Works Cited

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2006) presents a Timeline of Art History covering the Iberian Peninsula from 1600 to 1800 AD. The museum’s website provides valuable information on Francisco Goya, one of Spain’s most renowned artists. To access this resource, visit This page was accessed on November 17, 2006.

The Worldwide Art Gallery (2002) presents Great Artists in History: Paul Cezanne.” The article can be retrieved from and was accessed on November 17, 2006.

Tomlinson, J. (1989) wrote an article titled Goya and the Spirit of the Enlightenment,” which was published in Art Journal, Vol. 48 Issue 3, edited by Alfonso E. Perez Sanchez. The publication is based in New York.

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Creative Visionary Paul Cezanne. (2016, Sep 09). Retrieved from

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