Paul Cézanne was a French painter who was never really supposed to be a painter. His father, a prominent banker, almost disallowed his son for taking the “wrong” career choice. Cézanne was highly educated, and took great pride in studying his objects closely before painting them. He wanted to paint the soul of his subjects, and the style of his work shows this quite clearly. We could talk about Paul Cézanne for ages, as he is easy to recognise and was a part of the big transition from classic 19th century art into the more experimental 20th century Cubism style, but the focus of this article is on his most famous, most renowned painting of them all – The Card Players, which is among the most expensive pieces of art ever sold.
A series of paintings
The Card Players are actually a series of paintings, five of them known in total, that all depict simple people from the south of France, playing cards around a small table and smoking pipes. The most famous version of this series, simply known as The Card Players, was sold for a whopping 300 million dollars to an oil-rich Qatari royal family in 2011. As always, Paul Cézanne studied his subjects and their love for card games for a long time, and painted several portraits of the peasants. Four of the paintings are exhibited in different museums around the world, including one in Musée d´Orsay in Paris, one in London and one in the Met (New York). Only one painting is held in private hands – the one mentioned above.
Different view of the peasants
It is clear that Cézanne wanted to show a different view of the peasants, as opposed to earlier motifs from the 17th and 18th century, where they were always depicted as drunken gamblers in their spare time. Cézanne knew this to not be true, and hence wanted to show a more real, relaxed, humble setting. At the time there wasn’t any free spins no deposit available online, because internet didn’t exist back in the days. In the most famous of The Card Players series, there are only two men sitting opposed to each other and playing cards. Two other paintings from the same series show several men, three of them around a table, and one/two behind them, paying attention to their every move. No alcohol, no drunk fights, no smashed windows or broken chairs. Just a few humble peasants spending their spare time playing a game of cards while at the same time smoking tobacco from pipes. All of these paintings have heavy shadows, more or less neutral tones of colour and a natural intensity. In the latest paintings, where only two men are depicted, it is believed that Cézanne wanted to remove all obstacles from the viewer’s point of view and make us focus on what actually was going on – two men, a stack of cards, a pipe with tobacco and hopes of winning.
The celebrated painting that was sold for 300 million dollars, was for a long time held by a Greek businessman, until he decided to accept the unbeatable price offered by the Royal Family of Qatar. In 2010, before the purchase, the Courtauld Gallery in London and the Metropolitan of New York decided to exhibit the whole series of paintings together, as well as the sketches accompanying them, for the first time ever. The exhibitions drew huge crowds, and it is believed that the sheikhs from Qatar took note of the paintings while visiting the exhibition in London.