Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD, and Dr Caroline Campbell, director of the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI), today unveiled Ireland’s first public Cézanne painting (the National Gallery owns a drawing by the artist, acquired in 1954). The painting, La Vie des Champs, was created between 1876 and 1877 upon the artist’s return to Provence, in southern France, from Paris.
Translating to “Life in the Fields”, the oil painting depicts an imaginary, idyllic scene inspired by the country life of Cézanne’s native Provence. The painting, made when Cézanne returned to Impressionism, offers a window into the evolution of artist’s career with his employment of a lighter colour palette and sensational brush strokes that are characteristic of his later, more famous works.
Dr Campbell stated: “This painting by Paul Cézanne, made at a turning point in his career, is a work of international importance. The National Gallery of Ireland is exceptionally grateful to the Government of Ireland for recognising the significance of this painting for the national collection and supporting the acquisition. The purchase would not have been possible without this commitment, alongside the very generous support of a great friend and supporter of the Gallery who wishes to remain anonymous. Philanthropic gifts such as these support the future of the National Gallery of Ireland, and the growth of our national collection. Cézanne’s work has particularly appealed to other artists, and I hope that this acquisition will help to inspire creativity in Ireland, as well as philanthropy.”
The painting was acquired through a tripartite agreement between the Department of Arts, NGI, and the aforementioned private, anonymous donor.
Minister Martin and Dr Campbell were asked about the cost of the acquisition but cited the donor’s privacy and “commercial sensitivity” as reasons for the nondisclosure.
“The painting has an interesting and winding provenance”, said Minister Martin, “its ownership having traversed the Atlantic a number of times. It is fitting that it should now end its journey on the wall of a public gallery for all to see.”
The painting was acquired from the private art dealer Agnew’s, in London, in 2022. Prior to Agnew’s possession, the painting was purchased from the Philadelphia auction house Freeman’s for $1,450,000 in 2018, and had come from the collection of American philanthropist and heiress of the Campbell Soup fortune, Dorrance “Dodo” H. Hamilton.
Originally owned by Cézanne’s renowned Parisian art dealer, Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939), this marks the first public display of La Vie des Champs since 1996, when it featured in a touring exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“I wish to commend the work of the National Gallery in securing this wonderful painting for our National Collection,” Minister Martin said. “La Vie des Champs is a magnificent addition to the National Gallery and will now be on free display for all to enjoy. The acquisition also highlights the important role of philanthropy for the National Gallery and hopefully will encourage other donations to our National Cultural Institutions. I would also like to extend my sincere thanks to Sean Rainbird, former Director of the Gallery, for the critical role he played in securing this important work.”
It is hoped by the NGI as well as the Department that the acquisition will help in the Gallery’s recovery from the Covid lockdowns, and serve as a beacon of creativity and expression in Ireland. The painting is on display in the National Gallery’s Millennium Wing, Rooms 1-5, as part of the national collection and is open, free of charge, to the public.