He works as in the old days by executing preparatory sketches, with however a detail that changes everything. Nature can not be copied by the painter. The colors and contours express the atmosphere without requiring a preliminary drawing. This simple observation is one of the foundations of the figurative art of the following century.
In his exile away from the bourgeois society, Cézanne watches the peasants. They have differences : each one has his physical look, his straight or vaulted attitude, his behavior, his hat. The artist observes them individually before bringing them together in the group. The Joueurs de cartes are the deepest attempt by Cézanne to express, not reality, but life.
Cézanne made several preparatory watercolors for the Joueurs de cartes. Two of them, each showing one of the major players, have such a similar format and technique that they appear as pendants, certainly as the final study before one of the oils. They were made in 1892 or shortly after.
The watercolor of the smaller man, 47 x 30 cm, was sold for $ 19M including premium by Christie's on 1 May 2012. The character was identified : a gardener who worked for the artist.
The watercolor of the taller fellow, 48 x 32 cm, is estimated $ 18M for sale by Christie's in New York on November 9, lot 7A. A portrait of Père Alexandre was made by the same artist on the back of this paper.
SOLD for $ 21M including premium
The image below is limited to the upper part of the picture.