Gustave boyer in a straw hat - by Paul Cezanne

Cezanne has given his boyhood friend the quality of a Balzacian provincial character, ambitious and determined, with something of the bearing of his own father, as we see him in a photograph taken at that time. We are not sure it is a good likeness of the man; in Cezanne's other portraits of Boyer we see a more mediocre face. The force of the characterization comes not so much from the details of the features as from Cezanne's robust art, which endows the man with the energy of the painter's forms and the mood of his favored colors. The construction and proportioning of bust, head, and hat build up a dominating presence. The projecting silhouettes of the hat and jacket on the right create a strong profile as marked as the features on the face; and the tones, which recall the blacks and greys of the "Landscape of L'Estaque" and even the passage of light on the horizon (like the light along the lapel), give to the portrait an aspect of somber will-perhaps Cezanne's own. Add to these the extraordinary vigor of the brush which in passing from the thinly painted areas to the more solid, studied region of the face with minute modeling of the fleshy features, retains its fluency and directness. There is in the choice of tones and especially in the harmonizing of the warm light areas of the hat and face with the surrounding darks through greys and other neutralizing touches a wonderful subtlety and sureness equal to the best of Manet.

It is a more penetrating portrait than the kinship with Manet suggests. As we study the features we discover how deeply Cezanne has searched his friend, disclosing underneath the idealized appearance of romantic will and pride the forms of a weaker, more passive nature, and within the firm carriage of the head, surmounted by its high hat, the loose asymmetry of the eyes - the recessive left eye has something disturbed and sinister that contradicts the confidence of the other side. The sharp highlight of the right eye detaches the glance from the assertive axis of the face, an axis that is broken by the persistent spotting of light and dark, of cool and warm tones on the nose, mouth and chin.