Paul Cézanne spent several years drawing and painting farmworkers from the rural estate where he lived near Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. This is one of five paintings depicting some of these men playing cards. The figure on the right is a gardener called Paulin Paulet. The other player remains unidentified; Cézanne also made a portrait of him, on display nearby.
Cézanne's figures are elongated, somewhat out of proportion, and his brushwork is lively and varied. However, the overall feeling in the painting is one of stillness and concentration, with the men completely absorbed in their game. Before Cézanne, artists and illustrators often represented card playing as a rowdy activity in taverns with wine and beer flowing.
This painting offers a different vision: Cézanne's labourers are monumental and dignified, like timeworn statues.