by Alexandra Tuschka
The subject of card players has demonstrably occupied Cézanne more than other pictorial motifs - five versions, all quite similar, have been preserved for us. The earliest two - painted between 1890 - 92, show a few men loosely grouped around a table. The later three reduce the action to just two players, increasing the intimacy of the game moment.
Probably the best known of these five versions is immediately the latest and hangs today in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Although the two players sit so monumentally opposite each other, it is the most refined and also the most homogeneous in its overall impression due to the color scheme. Almost the entire color palette comes from ocher and brown tones.
Instead of the players being surprised here by the viewer, the Frenchman creates a rather stiff scene; our intrusion cannot diminish the quiet concentration of both figures. They gaze unflinchingly at the cards.
Cézanne refrained from providing them with symbols and thus clues to a loser or winner. In this game, everything is open. A bottle of wine on the central axis of the painting and a pipe in the mouth of the man on the left nevertheless create a certain coziness.
Paul Cézanne - The Card Players
Oil on canvas, 1894-1895, 47 cm × 56.5 cm, Musée d'Orsay in Paris