Paul Cézanne has always been an artist I've admired but most of his work I've seen has been his still-life and landscapes, the major part of his work. Apart from a mini-exhibition a few years ago at the Courtauld on his card-players, his paintings of people are not seen so often. The National Portrait Gallery in London has a new exhibition devoted to Cézanne Portraits that rectifies this.
Right: Hortense Fiquet in a Striped Skirt, 1877-78, Oil, 72.5 x 56 cm
The exhibition covers portraits he made throughout his life. The very early ones (pre-1870) are quite different however, and I have to admit that I really didn't like them at all. Dark and heavily painted with a palette knife, the paint was thick and spread around in large areas, almost as if by a trowel. I could see why they might be rejected from the Salon. Luckily, the earlier, uglier paintings are soon replaced by better ones.
Left: Man in a Blue Smock, 1896–97, Oil, 81.5 x 64.8 cm
Once we get into the 1870's, Cézanne finds his style, and thankfully also his brushwork. This brushwork often consists of the short, parallel and diagonal stroke we recognise from his landscapes; a style that distinguishes his art and what makes him so recognisable.
Not all are good and he struggled with figures sometimes, especially faces and expressions (sometimes very doll-like). The show is well worth a visit though. Cézanne is one of the great artists.
A blog post about the show at the NPG site.