Cezanne's Card Players is bought for new World Record price by Qatari Royal Family
Step aside Pollock and Picasso... the world's most valuable artwork is now Cezanne's Card Players
Paul Fraser Collectibles, Tuesday 7 February 2012
"Cezanne is the father of us all", both Matisse and Picasso are supposed to have said. The French artist is credited with pioneering many of the changes which shifted 19th century art into the 20th.
As often with pioneering artists, his work was not always well received, with one critic suggesting a portrait of his, viewed by a pregnant woman, might cause her child to "fall sick in the womb". Indeed he struggled until the famous dealer Ambroise Vollard took him under his wing.
The meticulous artist has probably been best known to the public until now for his still life paintings, with various views of similar objects based on a fruit bowl arranged to produce different lighting effects.
Although Cezanne's works are highly valued at auction with some of his works selling for low eight figure sums, that is not enough to include them in the very most valuable list of artworks - until now.
Today it has been confirmed what was rumoured last year: Cezanne's Card Players has been bought for $250m from the estate of George Embiricos, the Greek shipping magnate.
Cezanne painted a series of peasants playing cards in his studio with five closely related paintings produced in the 1890s, alongside a number of individual paintings of the farm workers. Most of these were snapped up long ago by the world's great museums (such as New York's Met) and aren't going anywhere.
The depiction of the sun-baked peasants was already unusual regardless of the techniques used. Cezanne focussed on their dignity in tradition, as opposed to the more common depictions as high-spirited drunkards.
Paradoxically, Cezanne's resolve to capture the traditional ritual of card playing was done using groundbreaking techniques - at least for a serious artist. His dabbing of a pattern of brushstrokes would be considered crude by many, but inspirational to Picasso and others.
Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise to learn that a new world record price has been set by the Qatari Royal family. We noted the enormous determination and buying power of the Emir of Qatar (transmitted through his cousin, Sheikh Saud al Thani) in the auction hall.
The Emir was even threatening to buy Christie's at one point, such was his interest in auctions, but the Cezanne sale was a private one.
The work had been rarely glimpsed during the many years spent in the collection which no doubt added to its allure. There will be hopes that it will now be exhibited as part of the Emir's plans to make Qatar a glorious hotspot of art and culture.
Prior to this sale the highest price for an artwork had been for Jackson Pollock's Number 5, bought in 2006 for £88.7m (roughly $140m) by a buyer whose identity is disputed. Cezanne's Card Players surpassed it by 78.5%. The record for an artwork at auction was set in May 2010 by Picasso's Nude, Green Leaves and Bust.
Collectors on the lookout for great artists of Impressionist and Modern styles need not pay nine figure sums, however.
Recent and related articles
· Irma Stern's Pink Sari could be '$1.9m' star in rare South Africa art auction | 6 February 2012
· Max Ernst Dada sculpture could bring $0.5m in New York art auction | 3 February 2012
Guides and analysis