Twenty-two paintings by the influential post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne that have never before been seen in the UK will go on show in a “once in a generation exhibition” at Tate Modern in the autumn.
They include the acclaimed Still Life with Fruit Dish, on loan from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which confirmed Cézanne’s reputation as one of the most important modern European artists.
Altogether, 80 paintings, watercolours and drawings will trace the life and work of a “pivotal figure in the direction of modern art”, said Frances Morris, Tate Modern’s director.
But she warned that the high cost of mounting major exhibitions meant Tate was forced to be “very selective” about such shows, and to seek partners to share the financial burden. The Cézanne exhibition, which includes works from Europe, Asia and the Americas, is being put on in partnership with EY.
The standard ticket price will be £22 compared with £18 for most pre-pandemic blockbuster shows, although discounts will be available for young people. The price was in “recognition that [such exhibitions are] extremely cost-intensive”, Morris said.
Still Life with Fruit Dish was once owned by Paul Gauguin, who painted it in the background of his own painting Woman in Front of a Still Life by Cézanne. Gauguin described Cézanne’s painting as “an exceptional pearl, the apple of my eye”, but he was forced to sell it to pay medical bills.
The exhibition opens with one of the earliest self-portraits painted by the artist, an image of “a sophisticated man about to conquer the capital” as he prepared to leave his home in Provence for Paris, said Natalia Sidlina, curator of international art at Tate Modern.
It charts the events, places and relationships that shaped the work of “one of the most highly regarded and enigmatic artists of the late 19th century”, she added.
“Cézanne witnessed swift political and social changes in France [as] it alternated between the Republic to empire and back to the Republic, the shock of the social unrest of the Paris Commune, and later in life the city-dividing Dreyfus Affair.”
The artist distanced himself from the Paris art scene and Impressionism, returning to Provence to pursue his own style. One room of the exhibition will be devoted to his paintings of the limestone mountain of Sainte-Victoire, including one from the Philadelphia Museum not seen in the UK before.
Another room will bring together several of Cezanne’s acclaimed bather paintings, including one of his largest and most celebrated works, Bathers 1894-1905. Portraits of his wife Hortense and son Paul will also feature in the exhibition.
A century ago, Tate rejected first offers of gifts of paintings by Cezanne as “too modern”, said Morris. “But only a few years later, Samuel Courtauld, an inspirational and transformative trustee of Tate, established a fund cleverly specifying what artists could be acquired for the national collection, and Cezanne was one of those artists.
“So Tate then became the very first national public museum in the UK to possess Cezanne paintings in 1924. And since then Cezanne has really been a key part of our holdings.”