Les joueurs de cartes

Les joueurs de cartes (The Card Players), 1892–1895, oil on canvas, 60 x 73 cm, Courtauld Institute of Art, London

No, no we do not suggest gambling as a lifestyle but this masterpiece by Cezanne is one of the most famous (and pricey) paintings in history. Sold for 250 million, it comes second, right after Salvator Mundi in the list of most expensive artworks to date. The Card Players is a series of five paintings of men playing cards, in different compositions. Cézanne’s painted them in the early 1890s, his final period, when he produced most of his masterpieces. It is surprising that this seemingly uneventful scene, that even lacks alcohol and money, required extensive preparation by the master, that produced several drawings right before these five historical pictures. Cezanne borrowed this theme from 17th century genre painting and created a painting in dark and beige contrasting tones that expand to the cards the two tradesmen use for their game. We could say that Cezanne mastered the art of painting the pokerface for this series. And we wouldn’t be far from the truth.