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European & American Art
Impressionism / Post-Impressionism gallery

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Paul CÉZANNE

France 1839 – 1906

L'Après-midi à Naples [Afternoon in Naples]
[Afternoon in Naples (L'Apres-midi a Naples)] c.1875 France
paintings, oil on canvas
Technique: oil on canvas
Primary Insc: No inscriptions
37.0 h x 45.0 w cm
Frame 62.3 h x 70.7 w x 10.5 d cm
Purchased 1985
Accession No: NGA 85.460

MORE DETAIL

  • The woman’s arm rests sensually on the man’s back, echoed in the outlines of her knee and feet just touching the servant’s arm and legs, and even in the way the edge of the tray just tips the corner of the cupboard. The angles of the servant’s arms repeat those of the window, cupboard, mirror and the couple’s arms. The great flurry of bodies, sheets, loincloth and curtain all flare up out of the cluster of feet in the bottom left corner.

    When he painted this work Paul Cézanne had just returned from two years of painting with the Impressionist artist Camille Pissarro, but Cézanne’s technique had nothing to do with capturing the play of light. By laying down patches of often bright colours in short brushstrokes, he evoked the substance of underlying forms, and produced an overall merging of background and subject.

    As though on a stage, the servant pulls back a curtain to reveal a most intimate moment. Although Cézanne never visited Italy, the scene may reflect French stereotypes of that country, or relate to happy times with Hortense (whom he later married) and the birth of their baby in 1872. This is probably the last painting in a series of over 20 drawings and paintings Cézanne made on this theme between 1862 and 1879.


    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

  • The theme of this painting recurs in Cézanne's early work. It probably first appeared in two works which Cézanne submitted to the Salon in 1867, which were rejected for exhibition (present whereabouts unknown). The critic Arnold Mortier's description of the second, bawdier, painting corresponds to a drawing, a watercolour and a tiny oil sketch which are generally thought to have been executed between 1862 and 1867. These works have all the ingredients of the later Afternoon in Naples - the female nude sprawled on the nude man who nonchalantly lies on his stomach smoking a pipe, while a maid enters with refreshments.

    According to Ambroise Vollard, the title L'Aprés-midi à Naples was suggested to Cézanne by his painter friend Antoine Guillemet. As Theodore Reff has noted, the title alludes 'to the popular notion of Italy as a place of freedom, of sensual life and gaiety'. The theme is typical of the erotic fantasies that appear frequently in Cézanne's early work, a fantasy informed by other art. In the first surviving watercolour for this composition, the appearance of the servant from the curtained background and the presence of a black cat seem to derive from Edouard Manet's Olympia 1863, exhibited at the Salon of 1865. On the other hand, John Rewald has pointed out that the attitude of abandonment of Cézanne's sprawled woman has little in common with Manet's steely Olympia, and is closer to Gustave Courbet's Woman with a parrot 1866, exhibited at the Salon of 1866.

    In numerous drawings made throughout the late 1860s and early 1870s, and in another painting of the early 1870s, Cézanne returned to the subject. In a fully realised watercolour, generally dated 1872-75, Cézanne established the layout for his final version of the theme in the Canberra painting. In the watercolour, the servant, now clearly black, and the black cat, which is dropped from the final painting, hark back to Olympia. The final watercolour and the painting have a different mood from the earlier versions. In both versions, the maid has been replaced by a black woman in a red loincloth. A new element of exoticism and a colouristic richness is apparent in the final version of Aftemoon in Naples, almost certainly derived from Eugéne Delacroix and, it has been suggested, in particular from his Women of Algiers 1833.

    The final version of Afternoon in Naples is also distinguished from its predecessors by the style in which it is painted. The technique of applying paint in parallel hatchings of pure colour that blend into each other in transitional passages, particularly evident in the treatment of the central area of the back wall and in the drapery, suggest Cézanne's absorption of the Impressionist technique, acquired while working with Camille Pissarro between 1872 and 1874. The distinctive facture of this painting, the short, individual, parallel brushstrokes that remain consistent over the entire surface irrespective of objects of varying physical nature and distinctions of background and foreground, is another legacy of Cézanne's Impressionist training. Although the subject of Afternoon in Naples has more in common with his works of the 1860s, and indeed originated in the 1860s as has been documented, the way in which it is painted suggests a date not before the early to mid-1870s, following his work with Pissarro.

    adapted from Michael Lloyd and Michael Desmond, European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australia National Gallery, 1992, pp.42-46, by Christine Dixon

    1. For the drawing, see Adrien Chappuis, The Drawings of Paul Cezanné: A Catalogue Raisonné, London: Thames and Hudson, 1973, no.86, titled by Chappuis Study for Aftemoon in Naples and dated 1862-65. For the watercolour, see John Rewald, Paul Cézanne: The Watercolours: A Catalogue Raisonné, London: Thames and Hudson, 1983, no.34, titled by Rewald Le Punch au Rhum and dated 1866-67. For the oil sketch, see Lionello Venturi, Cézanne ─ son art, son oeuvre, Paris: Paul Rosenberg, 1936, no. 112, titled by Venturi L 'après-midi à Naples au Le Punch au Rhum and dated 1870-72. The same sketch, published by John Rewald in The History of Impressionism, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1961, p.170, is dated 1866-67. The same sketch, published by John Rewald, in The History of Impressionism, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1961, p.170, is dated 1866-67
    2. Ambroise Vollard, Paul Cézanne: His Life and Art, London: Brentano's 1924, p.36
    3. Theodore Reff, 'Paul Cezanne's Aftemoon in Naples', lecture delivered on the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 12 October 1987
    4. John Rewald, Paul Cézanne, The Watercolours: A Catalogue Raisonné, Boston: Little, Brown and Co. 1983, and London: Thames and Hudson 1983, no. 34, p.90
    5. ibid., p.91
    6. Adrian Chappuis, The Drawings of Paul Cezanné: A Catalogue Raisonné, London: Thames and Hudson, 1973, identifies fourteen drawings associated with the theme, see no.s 275-280, 282-286, 291, 460, 461
    7. Lionello Venturi, Cézanne ─ son art, son oeuvre, Paris: Paul Rosenberg, 1936, no.223
    8. John Rewald, Paul Cézanne, The Watercolours: A Catalogue Raisonné, Boston: Little, Brown and Co. 1983, and London: Thames and Hudson 1983, no. 35., pp.91-92
    9. The connection between the final version of Afternoon In Naples and the Women of Algiers has been persuasively argued by Sara Lichtenstein in 'Cézanne and Delacroix', Art Bulletin, vol.46, no.7, March 1964, pp.55-67, cf. p.59
    DW

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010