Rare migration of French blockbuster

Cézanne one of the few to cross the channel


The Cézanne exhibition, which closed at the Grand Palais, Paris, at the beginning of last month and is now opening at the Tate Gallery (8 February-28 April), is the most comprehensive survey of the artist's work to have been undertaken for nearly sixty years, and the most significant treatment of a major painter of the later nineteenth century to be presented in London since 1985, when Renoir was shown at the Hayward Gallery (see The Art Newspaper, No 51, September 1995, p.16).

Inevitably, it will convey a different mood and have a rather different appearance in London, the historical attraction of seeing Cézanne in the same rooms in the Grand Palais where his small memorial exhibition of 1907 was mounted being balanced by the cleaner progression of the Tate Gallery's display in its northern extension. Although the presentation in Paris favoured a chronological treatment, the opportunity to be immersed in the sheer variety of the artist's styles and themes was diluted by the decision to interrupt the large halls of the Grand Palais with clusters of small bays. In London, open spaces will juxtapose, rather than divide, portraits, subject pictures and landscapes. Drawings and watercolours, unsatisfactorily crowded in Paris, will be spread over two chambers rather than being squeezed around oil paintings.

Special attractions are expected to be a grand room of landscapes at the heart of the exhibition and containing several versions of "La Montagne Sainte Victoire" and a room of larger still-life compositions, including the two pictures with the plaster Cupid owned by the Courtauld Institute Galleries, London and the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. The extensively trailed confrontation between the two versions of "Les Grandes Baigneuses", owned by the National Gallery, London, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and reunited for the first time since they were shown at the Orangerie, Paris, in 1937, takes place in the last room of the exhibition, which will closely resemble the final room of the Grand Palais. Both paintings are accompanied by a related oil study, and other works from the last years of Cézanne's career.

In another sense, too, it will be a slightly different exhibition, a different selection of works. Fifteen oil paintings, sixteen watercolours or drawings and two sketchbooks included in the exhibition at the Grand Palais will not be shown in London. Withdrawals include "Harlequin" (1888-90, National Gallery of Art, Washington), which will rejoin the exhibition in Philadelphia, and "Portrait of Gustave Geffroy" (1895-96, Musée d'Orsay), which will only have been shown in Paris. By way of compensation, the Tate Gallery shows six oil paintings and seven works on paper not loaned to Paris. The first version of "A Modern Olympia" (1869-70, private collection), less well known than the celebrated composition included in the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874 and belonging to the Musée d'Orsay, is the most exciting addition.

The Tate Gallery is hosting an international conference under the title of "Cézanne and the Aesthetic" on 29 March (for details telephone +44 (0) 171 887 8922).

The Cézanne exhibition will be seen at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (25 May-18 August). A related project, which had been conceived by Richard Brettell and Joaquim Pissarro and would have investigated the relationship between Cézanne and Pissarro at Pontoise in 1872, has been postponed because the specific loans required for such an intriguing comparison could not be obtained. It had been scheduled to take place at the Musée d'Orsay and at the Royal Academy during the survey's presentation in Paris and London, as well as at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.