Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1885-1857, oil on canvas, 67 x 92cm, Courtauld Institute of Art.
In the Modern Lovers’ song, ‘Girlfriend‘, Jonathan Richman sings: ‘If I were to walk to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston / Well, first I’d go to the room where they keep the Cézanne.’ From American 1970s punk to the Persian Gulf, it appears that Cézanne’s appeal is neither bound by teen-angst, geography or value, as last week the Qatari Royal Family purchased Cézanne’s The Card Players (1894-1895) for a record-breaking $250m (£158.4m). In recent years, Qatar has been exerting itself as the major economic and political force in the Middle East. With the recent World Cup bid victory, and now the purchase of one of Cézanne’s most iconic works, this influence is becoming increasingly cultural and global. As Vanity Fair pointed out: ‘There are four other Cézanne Card Players in the series; and they are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Courtauld, and the Barnes Foundation. For a nation in the midst of building a museum empire, it’s instant cred.’
Cezanne’s card players may amount to ‘instant cred’, but here in the office, we have a leaning towards his landscapes – in particular Mont Sainte-Victoire from 1885-1887 – a mountain in France that Cézanne could see from the window of his house. If we could, we’d put our money where our mouth is.
For more details about the emergence of Qatar, check out our new book, Qatar: A Modern History, by Allen J. Fromherz.