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The first European exhibition of one of the most important private art collections in North America, formed by Henry and Rose Pearlman after the Second World War.
New York city businessman Henry Pearlman began collecting European avant-garde art in 1945. From his initial acquisition, a landscape by Chaïm Soutine, he was a passionate collector, particularly interested in rare pieces by Impressionist and Post- Impressionist masters.
After Pearlman's death in 1974, the collection was managed by his wife Rose and then in the mid-1970s, it was loaned to the Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey, where it has remained ever since.
Featuring 24 works by Paul Cézanne, it is one of the finest and best-preserved groups of the artist's watercolours in the world. The majority are Provençal landscapes, but there are other recognisable Cézanne motifs too, such as a skull, female bathers and depictions of Mont Sainte-Victoire.
What makes the collection so distinctive is that it was shaped by Henry Pearlman's own tastes – he would only buy pictures and sculptures that he liked. Among the artists represented are Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas.
On its exhibition at Cézanne's first solo show in 1895, Three Pears attracted the attention of artists Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The two became involved in a bidding war and had to draw lots to decide who would get to buy it, with Degas prevailing.
This watercolour provides an interesting contrast with Still Life with Carafe, Bottle and Fruit, which was painted shortly before Cézanne's death in 1906 and is revealing of how artist's work became more expressive in its style.
What the critics say
"The glistening colours of one of Paul Cézanne's greatest paintings absorb every brain cell that has anything to do with visual attention in [this] beautiful new exhibition... quite a coup for the Ashmolean: this puts it in the big league of our most serious art museums."