Trivium Art History
Paul Cézanne

The Card Players

The Card Players, 1895 — Paul Cézanne,
47 cm56.5 cm

Playing cards has never been less fun.

During the Dutch golden age, paintings of card players were popularized by artists like Jan Miense Molenaer and Antoine and Louis Le Nain. Men and women lit by candle light, laughing and shouting and drinking and betting on a good hand. They were fun paintings, and 150 years later Paul Cézanne came along and bled all the fun out of the genre.

Cézanne may have seen the Le Nain's card player paintings in the museum in his hometown of Aix, but we know that he made five painting of card players of his own — and that they are very different than the joyful Dutch works. Cézanne's card players are all men, all stone-faced. The wine bottles on the table are untouched, the colors monochromatic. This painting, currently on view in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, is the last in Cézanne's series. The scene is quiet, distilled. Two men in stark profile still as statues — a human still life.

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