When a group of New York art enthusiasts launched the Museum of Modern Art in 1929, French post-Impressionist Paul Cézanne was an obvious choice to headline the new museum’s debut exhibition (together with Paul Gauguin, Georges-Pierre Seurat and Vincent van Gogh).
The museum will return to Cézanne this summer, with a twist: Rather than focusing on the artist’s legendary paintings, the Cézanne Drawing exhibit (scheduled to run June 6 to September 25), will examine his paper work: Sketches, watercolors, pencil drawings and more.
MoMA’s senior curator, Jodi Hauptman, says the exhibition is intended to challenge viewers – by adding context and depth to Cézanne’s finished paintings on one hand, but also by celebrating the paper-based work in its own right.
“For someone who might be more well known to our visitors as a painter, we try to flip the emphasis and look closely at the drawings, to make a strong case that where the artist is perhaps most modern and most experimental, is really on paper,” Hauptman told The Art Newspaper, an industry journal.
Highlights of the exhibition include a pencil-drawn self-portrait of the artist, as well as several mixed-medium works including the pencil and watercolor Still Life with Cut Watermelon (Nature morte avec pastèque entamée, 1900) and Foliage (Étude de feuillage, 1900-04).
In total, the museum will display more than 200 works, out of more than 2,100 drawings and watercolors the artist did. The show will also include several paintings, but only to complement the goals of the exhibition.
“We chose paintings very carefully when they were going to tell us something, help us understand the drawing practice more,” Hauptman told The Art Newspaper.