Self Portrait with Olive-Coloured Wallpaper Paul Cezanne Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This self portrait dates from approximately 1880-1881. It was purchased by the National Gallery in 1925 and has remained on permanent display in London ever since. The city itself boasts a good number of artworks from this artist's career, with others owned by the Tate.

The painting has been translated from its original French title into both Self-Portrait in Front of Olive Wallpaper as well as Self Portrait with Olive-Coloured Wallpaper. Here we find Cezanne staring in our direction whilst dressed fairly smartly. He would often work in such attire and so was not necessarily carrying out any social activities at the time. He liked to wear a thick coat to keep him warm and avoid getting oils on his other clothes. We can see that by this point in his life his hair had mainly gone, other than around the back and sides of his head. He often sported a beard and we see it here, though trimmed with some elements of grey perhaps starting to show through. His ckeeks and forehead are touched with tones of pink and red, though most of the painting is in relatively dulled tones that would be more related to cold times of the year. Self portraiture offered him the chance to explore his own mind and appearance, whilst also working with little prior planning.

We find a patterned wallpaper behind him with is listed as an olive green, although most reproductions of the original work have failed to match quite the same tone. The rest of the wall is in a plain blue which was a colour that appears many times throughout his career, such as across scenes of sky or sea. He was known as a subtle painter who would create forms using incrediblely large variations of tone, which would fuse together to create smooth finishes. That said, at times he would also construct items from single strokes of thick paint and he did change his style over time as his career progressed. His style has therefore been categorised in different ways, both as an Impressionist and a Post-Impressionist, with many connections also being made to the later Cubist movement, which was something that he inspired.

The artist would have been around forty at the time of this work and one must admit that he looks a little older than that here. Family life and responsibilities perhaps aged Cezanne fairly quickly. By the early 1880s Cezanne had also started to distance himself from the Impressionists and was working with a great independence. He was settled in the south of the country and felt happier here. Perhaps we see someone reaching the confident period of middle age where the opinions of others are taken less seriously and without the same sensitivity. He was very much his own man by now and was happy to show that within this much loved self portrait.

Self Portrait with Olive-Coloured Wallpaper in Detail Paul Cezanne