The Murder

Paul Cézanne, 1867 - 1870

WAG 6242

About this object

The French painter Paul Cézanne is best known for his monumental landscape paintings. "The Murder" is one of Cézanne's early paintings, an unusually dramatic piece which conveys the brutality of the act.

The three figures in 'The Murder' form a triangle whose parallel sides are forces in opposing directions: the murderer is lifting his hand ready to give the final blow while his collaborator is using all her strength to keep the victim down. The body of the victim has almost disappeared, only its outline head and arms are distinct under the ferocious force of the two murderers.

The murderers have no faces, but the victim's is contorted with pain. Cézanne is not concerned with the identities of the murderers; they could be anybody. Cézanne presents the act as one of anonymous violence; their crime is given no explanation. The threatening sky, the suggestion of a riverbank where the body will be thrown, and the desolate surrounding space all contribute to the menacing nature of the scene.

It was painted at a time when Cézanne was still under the influence of Old Masters such as Gericault (1791 - 1824) and Velazquez (1599 - 1660). Cézanne's choice of this brutal subject may have been inspired by Zola's novel 'Thérèse Racquin' in which the heroine murders her husband. The painting's similarity with illustrations in the popular press suggests that they too could have been a source of inspiration.

The sweeping movement of the male murderer, obvious in his jacket and legs, conveys the power of the moment. His hands and legs are elongated and distorted for the same effect. The handling of paint is heavy and in many parts rounded, for example in the arms of the collaborator, foretelling of the luminous volumes of Cézanne's more famous landscapes.

Cézanne repeated the theme of "The Murder" in a watercolour (now in a private collection) dated around 1874-75.The watercolour has the same composition, but the murderer's face is no longer hidden and the victim is raising her hand in supplication. In the watercolour the landscape is specific and resembles the views of L'Estaque, a small town in southern France, featured in many paintings by Cézanne.

Object specifics

  • Artist(s)
    Paul Cézanne (French, born:19 January 1839, died:23 October 1906)
  • Date
    1867 - 1870
  • Materials
    Oil; Canvas
  • Measurements
    canvas/support: 64 cm x 81 cm
  • Physical description
    A blonde woman dressed in blue is being forcefully held to the ground by a woman on the right wearing a yellow shirt. The male figure on the left holds a knife and raises his arm as if to stab the detained woman. The scene takes place beneath a dark turbulently cloudy sky.
  • Related people
    Paul Cassirer (Previous owner); Paul Cézanne (Artist/maker); Julie Sara Elias (Previous owner); Julius Elias (Previous owner); C Mrs Levy (Previous owner); Ambrose Vollard (Previous owner); Wildenstein and Co Ltd (Previous owner)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 6242
  • Credit line
    Purchased by the Walker Art Gallery with the assistance of the Art Fund in 1964
  • Location
    Walker Art Gallery, Room 10
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections

Ownership

Previous owners

  • Wildenstein and Co Ltd

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1964
    Disposal method: Sold to Walker Art Gallery
  • C Mrs Levy

    Owned from: 1949
    How acquired: Claimed as inheritance by niece of Julie Eliase of
    Owned until: Unknown or unrecorded
    Disposal method: Sold
  • Julie Sara Elias

    Owned from: 1927
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1943-08-21
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • Julius Elias

    Owned from: 1918-05-03
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1927
    Disposal method: By inheritance
  • Paul Cassirer

    Owned from: 1916-10-16
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1918-05-03
    Disposal method: Sale
  • Ambrose Vollard

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: 1916-10-16
    Disposal method: Sale

Inscriptions

Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: Kunsthaus Zurich - owners Wildersteins, New York
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Back
  • Inscription text: Baltimore Museum of Art - loan No. 3281-2. Owners Wildersteins.
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Back
  • Inscription text: S ?D 4614.2
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note: Bottom corner small label
    Inscription location: Back
  • Inscription text: The Murder, Wilderstein and Company Inc.
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Back; Frame
  • Inscription text: Exposition: Autuer: Cezanne Titre: Le Maurtre Proprietaire: Wildensteins No. du Catalogue: 2
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note: Torn Label
    Inscription location: Back
  • Inscription text: 5 De Mord 1867/70 New York, Galerie Wildenstein
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Back
  • Inscription text: (.......?) No. 12655 Le Meurtre
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note: Label worn and damaged the first work is illegible
    Inscription location: Back
  • Inscription text: "Brugger's Los angeles Fine Arts Forwarding Service" (plus other details)
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Back
  • Inscription text: "Man and his years". The Baltimore Museum of Art. October 19 - November 21, 1954. Title: The Murder. 1867 - 1870. Artist Paul Cezanne. Receipt No.3144. Catalogue 95. Lender: Wildensteins and Company Inc., New York.
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Back
  • Inscription text: 17863
    Inscription method: Ink
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Stretcher
  • Inscription text: (various custom stamps)
    Inscription method:
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Stretcher; Canvas; Frame
Object view = Fine Art
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