Tate retrospective aims to make Cezanne better understood

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Arts Reporter

The Tate is to hold the first comprehensive exhibition for 60 years of the work of the French artist Paul Cezanne, described as the most maligned, least understood and greatest of the Impressionist painters, it announced yesterday.

The show will open at the Tate in February next year, 90 years after the artist's death, following its launch at the Grand Palais in Paris this September. It will move on from the Tate to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in May next year.

The exhibition in London will comprise the "creme de la creme" of the Provencal painter's work, according to Simon Wilson, curator of interpretation at the Tate.

It will include nearly 100 of Cezanne's 800 paintings as well as 60 watercolours and drawings lent from public and private collections throughout the world.

The event will give the public a rare chance to compare the two magnificent final versions of Les Grandes Baigneuses from the National Gallery in London and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, although the collaboration between the museums has failed to secure the loan of the third painting in the series, held by the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.

The exhibition, sponsored by Ernst and Young, the business and financial advisory group, will also include such famous works as Le Lac d'Annecy of 1896, La Femme a la Cafetiere of about 1895, Les Joueurs de Cartes of the early 1890s, and numerous still lifes, portraits, and views of the Sainte Victore mountain.

Cezanne, described by Picasso as "the father of us all" and Matisse as "a kind of god among painters", was born in Aix-en-Provence, in southern France, 1839, the son of a banker.

He was a schoolfriend of the novelist Emile Zola, who introduced him to Manet and persuaded him to study art in Paris.

There he met Monet and Pissarro, who also became members of the group of Impressionist painters which irreversibly changed the direction of Western art.

Although Cezanne was closely identified in particular with Pissarro, with whom he had a long association, he never wholly identified himself with the Impressionist group.

His aims are summarised in two of his famous sayings: that he wanted to do Poussin again after nature, and that he wanted to make Impressionism as enduring as the art of the Old Masters.

This is the first largest exhibition of his work for generations, although it follows in the footsteps of more specialist shows.

A 1977 exhibition which toured New York, Houston and Paris explored his late works, while his enigmatic early paintings were the subject of another international show in 1988. The following year a show in Basle focused on the theme of his bathers.

Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate gallery, said yesterday: "Above all the others at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, Cezanne has been important to artists.

"Many of his works could be found in their studios. Picasso collected Cezanne, as did Matisse and Henry Moore."