On view in “From Whistler to Warhol: Modernism on Paper” is a sketch that Paul Cézanne did sometime between 1890 and 1896 of a man holding a hand of cards. It’s a study for his famous painting series “The Card Players.” (The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns one of them.) The Academy purchased the work on paper in 1937 from the legendary French art dealer Ambroise Vollard in 1937—then, it apparently disappeared off the art-world record. Only to be “rediscovered” this month.
Two weeks ago, Theresa Papanikolas, the Academy’s Curator of European and American art who put together “From Whistler to Warhol,” received a phone message from Dr Barnaby Wright, the Daniel Katz Curator of 20th-Century Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. The Courtauld, he said, is organizing an exhibition around the series, and is researching works to include in the show. In “The Drawings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné” by Adrien Chappuis—the art historian’s bible of the artist’s work—was a study that caught his eye. Unfortunately, it is listed as “present owner unknown.” Wright caught wind that the Academy had a Cézanne drawing and called Papanikolas.
She replied to Wright via email: “…Although it is listed in ‘present owner unknown’ in Chappuis’s catalogue raisonné of Cezanne’s drawings, it is indeed in our collection, and has been so since the Academy purchased it from Vollard in 1937! As you correctly surmise, it is a study for ‘The Card Players.'”
He replied to her: “I am really excited to have discovered the whereabouts of the drawing which appears to be a wonderful work. I can’t believe it has been with you since 1937 and Chappuis didn’t know!”
The two curators are now in discussion about the Academy’s drawing going to London to be part of “Cézanne’s Card Players,” which opens Oct. 21.