The first portrait Paul Cézanne ever painted of Hortense Fiquet—his model, mistress, son’s mother, and eventually his wife—is now lost, chronicled only in the background of a black-and-white photograph from around 1872. Also lost are many of the details surrounding the almost four-decade-long relationship between this strong-willed Parisian woman and the socially awkward Post-Impressionist. What does remain are 29 painted portraits (and many more drawings) that Cézanne created of Fiquet, the person he depicted most frequently after himself.
Certain features are constant, though. Cézanne was visually fascinated by the oblong oval shape of her head, the severe central part of her hair, and, at times, the details of her dresses. (These frocks are sometimes painted with more precision than the features of Madame Cézanne’s face.)