The House of The Hanged Man painting of house

The House of The Hanged Man: Cézanne’s Impressionism

Cézanne’s career begins with a much more refined and formally aesthetic art style. As he slowly moved away from romanticism to impressionism, certain features of his initial work stuck with him. Some characteristics of romantic art that Cézanne’s work still reflected during the end of his career are loneliness and melancholia. What seems like an ordinary painting of some houses has strong emotional undertones that blur the boundary between romanticism and impressionism. “The House of The Hanged Man” gives us a taste of Paul Cézanne’s distinctive art style.

Where is Today?

Paul Cézanne’s 1873 painting “The House of The Hanged Man” is currently displayed at the Musée d’Orsay, a museum in Paris. 

About the Painting

“The House of The Hanged Man” painting is an oil on canvas work. The dimensions are 21 by 26 inches. Interestingly this was Cézanne’s first work that was ever sold. In 1874, the painting was purchased for a sum of 200 francs by the art collector Comte Armand Doria. In 1889 Isaac de Casnondo bought the painting for 6510 francs. He left the piece to the Louvre Museum in 1911 after his death. Finally, the painting was given to the Musée d’Orsay where it is today. 

The story behind the title

The painting gives us a rather blurry view of a cottage situated in the middle of rugged terrain. Even though the title of the painting is quite ominous and points toward the possibility of a suicide scene, there is no evidence backing this speculation. 

The only convincing theory is related to the man who owned the cottage. The owner’s surname was Penn’Du which closely resembles the French word Pendu meaning hanged man. The title of the painting is originally “La Maison du Pendu” in French. 

Composition of the Painting

The cottage in the painting is situated in Auvers-Sur-Oise in France during the early 1870s. Conforming to the impressionist style, Cézanne used short interrupted strokes throughout the painting. The artist has also used the impasto technique in this piece. Even though impasto is quite common in impressionist art, Cézanne used it much more heavily than the other impressionists. The trees in the middle of the frame have thick layers of paint that make them seem three-dimensional. 

In most art styles the central subject of the painting has several sight lines converging on it. In The House of The Hanged Man, the lines of sight converge at the base of the hills which leads us nowhere. This is a way of conveying that nothing in the landscape is of special importance. The artist urges us to feel the overall environment of the scene rather than concentrate on a single element. 

Details – The House of The Hanged Man by Paul Cézanne. Public Domain

Another way in which Cézanne deviated from mainstream impressionism is through its exaggerated grainy appearance. The artist owes this look to a gradual workflow wherein he molds the piece per his imagination with thick layers of paint. The overall blur is created by a palette knife and several hesitant brushstrokes. 

Analysis of The House of The Hanged Man

Unlike earlier paintings by Cézanne, The House of The Hanged Man is a bright picture with cool undertones. Even though warm colors like yellow have been used on most of the canvas, it does have a muted blueish undertone. The cool palette accentuates the calmness and the stagnancy of the scene. 

The major themes of the painting are solitude, serenity, and silence. Due to the ominous title of the painting, most viewers associate this work with gloom and loneliness. However, in more recent times the painting has been related to more positive themes such as calmness and comfortable solitude.   

The House of The Hanged Man painting of house
The House of The Hanged Man by Paul Cezzane. Public Domain

The landscape is as unique as the painting technique. The house, hills, and roadways look far from natural or realistic. Even though the cottage is hidden from view,  Cézanne made a clear effort to draw the viewer’s attention to this structure. The point where the steep roads converge takes us to an opening that makes way for this isolated cottage to emerge in the middle of dense vegetation. The emptiness in the scene helps the audience to tune into a reflective mental state. 

These structures don’t follow complete logic and are devoid of any sense of perspective. The painting depicts a two-story cottage, partially obscured by some vegetation and hills. Looking further ahead we see some dense civilization and a small portion of pastel blue sky. 

However, this inaccuracy is in keeping with impressionism. The motive of the artist is not to show us the beauty of the scene, but rather just make us experience it through his eyes. 

Conclusion

During the 1870s, Cézanne developed a close professional friendship with Camille Pissarro, a French painter. This friendship was the most important turning point in Cézanne’s career due to which he explored his versatility as an artist. Even while exploring an existing art style Cézanne incorporates ample unique features in his paintings. His experiments in art have encouraged many young artists to explore their talents without judgment.

FAQs

What is Paul Cézanne best known for?

Paul Cézanne is best known for his versatile art techniques and forms. He extensively explored the different ways of representing ideas through different art styles. While it is difficult to assign a specific name to Cézanne’s art, Post-Impressionism was an important art style during his career. His romantic paintings including the “Card Players” series comprise his most famous work. 

What was Paul Cézanne inspired by?

Paul Cézanne was greatly inspired by different art movements and especially the great artists of his time. His early work has a strong influence of romanticism while his later work is best described as post-impressionistic. Caravaggio, Pissarro, and Manet are some of the most important artists who inspired Cézanne.

What technique did Paul Cézanne use?

Paul Cézanne’s later works are from the Post-impressionism era. As a result, these paintings feature interrupted or rather broken brushstrokes, with heavy impasto in the absence of defined contours. His technique is popularly known as “constructive strokes”. In this, the artist uses rough strokes that gradually make more refined and often geometric shapes that are interpretable. 

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