Self Portrait with White Turban 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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Paul Cezanne produced this self portrait in 1882. He regularly used this genre as a means to express his own internal moods onto the canvas, leaving behind dozens of paintings by the end of his life which spanned across a number of decades.

Self Portrait with White Turban is one of his most famous self portraits and features the artist from around the chest upwards. He is dressed in a thick brown suit with coat over the top and appears dressed for autumn or winter. Turbans were regularly worn in the west during this period and could be used for all manner of different purposes. We know from other artworks that the artist was balding by this point and so would choose various types of headwear in order to disguise this fact, but also for the practical purpose of keeping himself warm. He spent much of his life living in the countryside and so would have been more exposed to the elements, particularly as he also loved to spend time within nature for pure enjoyment as well as to improve his art. One can work out fairly easily that Paul Cezanne aged fairly quickly and looks older to a modern eye than he actually was. His balding hair was perhaps the main reason behind that but it does also raise questions about his lifestyle and state of mind.

Behind him we find a fairly neutral wall with no real detail as such, which would have been deliberately chosen in order to avoid distracting the viewer's focus from the main subject. Cezanne produced several dozen self portraits within his lifetime and these help us to track his development over time, both as a person but also an artist. He would keep his expression fairly constant throughout, and as we see here he looks directly at us with a series and intense expression - one would take from this that Paul was a formidable character who was not to be crossed. That said, one would always need to take other evidence when trying to determine an artist's character, as a self portrait is really about seeing how an artist wants to be viewed, rather than necessarily how they actually are in reality.

Self Portrait with White Turban is listed as being 55cm tall by 46cm wide but we do not have much information on it other than that. Some of the artworks in French private collections have not been discussed in English particularly often, so perhaps this piece was acquired by such a collector some time ago. A catalogue raisonne was completed on Cezanne in English, but many of those formats do not go beyond basic information and attribution on each piece, such is the scale of the task that they undertake. Its arrival in 1882 marks it amongst Cezanne's mature period, at which point he was fully developed and comfortable as an artist, as well as being able to work with a great independence, without having to appease patrons who might demand certain stylistic choices.

Self Portrait with White Turban in Detail Paul Cezanne