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Permanent Collections: Cézanne at the Hammer Museum

Paul Cézanne's Boy Resting, in the collection of The Hammer Museum at UCLA, is the focus of this edition of "Permanent Collections," my series about paintings in American museums.

The Hammer houses the personal collection of the oil magnate Armand Hammer, which includes paintings by many of the heavy hitters of Western art. The museum also puts on contemporary exhibits throughout the year.

I first went to the Hammer about a twenty years ago, and during many subsequent trips to L.A., I often considered returning. After seeing Paul Cézanne's Boy Resting on the museum's website, I finally returned.

Boy Resting is a bit unusual for Cezanne. He, of course, made many paintings of bathers outdoors and many portraits. However, as far as I know, a single, clothed figure in a landscape is a rarity. I didn't remember having seem this novelty in my previous visit to the Hammer, so I figured it was time to return.

It's a relatively simple work, with slightly tilted horizontal bands interrupted by vertical trees. The cool greens, blues, and violets, applied in thin layers, give the painting a characteristically moist essence, an effect that is underscored by the pond or river right behind the boy.

The relatively warm flesh tones, along with the yellow-ochre and rust-red hues in the background, provide contrast that echoes the opposing vertical and horizontal elements. Within this dichotomy the boy (presumably, according to the museum's wall text, Cézanne's son) provides a lazy, third feature: the diagonal. He quietly animates the painting with his left foot pointed forward.

Resting Boy is thus a portrait of comfortable country life. Is it a monumental work? No. But it is an intriguing one that I am happy to have discovered.

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