Long-lost Cezanne turns up in Texas

A watercolor by Post-impressionist master Paul Cezanne, missing for nearly six decades, has been relocated and will be auctioned this spring in New York.

The work depicts Paulin Paulet, a gardener on the Cezanne family estate near Aix-en-Provence in France. It was known to scholars only as a black-and-white photograph.

The late 19th-century work on paper is one of Cezanne’s preparatory studies for his seminal Card Players series of five paintings, “Joueurs des cartes,” according to Agence France-Presse.

It was unknown if the actual work still existed and, if it did, who owned it, according to the New York Times.

But the watercolor recently surfaced in the home of a Dallas collector and will be auctioned at Christie’s in New York on May 1, officials at the company said Monday.

It is expected to fetch up to $20 million.

“Cézanne’s images of workers on his family farm – pipe-smoking men sitting around a table, their expressions dour, their dress drab, absorbed in a game of cards – are among his most recognizable works,” according to the Times. “Some are pictured alone; others are shown in groups of two or more. Paulet is the only one of the figures to appear in all five paintings in the ‘Card Players’ series.”

Cézanne executed the “Card Players” from 1890 to ’96. That was at the same time he was creating nudes in his “Bathers” series and soon after he experimented with landscapes in his canvases of Mont Sainte-Victoire, the publication added.

Cézanne also made seven known drawings and watercolors as studies for the paintings. And “A Card Player,” as the one coming up for sale at Christie’s is called, belonged to Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald, a prominent collector who died in September.

Eichenwald inherited the watercolor from his father, Ernst, who is thought by Christie’s experts to have bought it from a Berlin gallery around 1930.

When the Eichenwald family fled Germany and the Nazis in 1936, they took “A Card Player,” along with works by Daumier and other 19th-century artists, to New York. Now Heinz Eichenwald’s widow, Linda, is selling the work.

“The art was for their enjoyment rather than for public display. It was not hidden away in the house, it was enjoyed. But it wasn’t as important for their social position as it was for them,” Christie’s president Marc Porter told Agence France-Presse.

When “A Card Player” goes on view in Geneva on April 17 and 18 and then at Christie’s in Rockefeller Center on April 27, it will be the first time in nearly 60 years that it has been seen in public.

“A Card Player” has been shown just once in the United States, in the 1953 exhibition “French Art Around 1900 — From van Gogh to Matisse,” at Fine Arts Associates, a New York gallery, the Times reported.

(Above: “A Card Player” (1892-96), a watercolor study by Cézanne missing for nearly 60 years, has turned up in a private collection. Photo credit: New York Times.)

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