'The Murder' is typical of Cézanne’s work at the end of the 1860s. Its violent theme is expressed in brutal strokes of a palette-knife. The subject matter is often considered the out-pourings of his youthful, impetuous nature. It also reflects the murderous themes in novels written in the 1860s by Emile Zola, Cézanne’s lifelong friend. The painting’s subject, lighting and colouring create a nightmarish quality reminiscent of works by the Spanish artist Goya, who was at the height of his popularity among Cézanne’s circle in the mid-1860s. Formerly in the collection of the Jewish art critic Julius Eliasand and his family in 1930s Berlin.


  • Title: The Murder
  • Creator: Paul Cézanne
  • Date Created: 1867/1870
  • tag / style: Paul Cézanne; murder; Goya; darkness; violence; palette knife; brutal; men; attacking
  • Physical Dimensions: w810 x h640 cm (without frame)
  • Artist biographical information: Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence in the South of France, the son of a hat maker. In 1848 his father moved into finance and founded a bank, but his wealth was at odds with the lives of the local rural community and he was never accepted by Aix society. In 1859 after a year of studying law in Aix-en-Provence, Cézanne decided to abandon his studies. His relationship with his father was problematic: they never really seemed to have any contact and the young Cézanne struggled for a year before his father allowed him to move to Paris in 1861. Cézanne visited the Parisian museums, the Salon (the official exhibition hosted by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts) and studied the work of the Old Masters whom he much admired. Cézanne also practised at the Academie Suisse, an informal establishment which enabled artists to draw from life models for a small fee. There he met the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). Under his influence Cézanne turned away from painting figures to work in the open air, producing landscapes of the Aix-en-Provence countryside. Despite spending long periods of time in the capital, Cézanne was alienated by Parisian society. He soon moved back to his hometown where he remained for most of his life.
  • Additional artwork information: This painting was the subject of an ‘Artwork of the Month’ talk given at the Walker Art Gallery in 2001. To read the notes from this talk please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/picture-of-month/displaypicture.asp?venue=2&id=141
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund in 1964

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