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The Cover
January 30, 2008

Portrait of Madame Cézanne

JAMA. 2008;299(4):389. doi:10.1001/jama.2007.70

Difficult relationships filled the world of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). One of his boyhood companions in Aix-en-Provence was Émile Zola, who became a literary critic and acclaimed novelist. A break in the Cézanne-Zola friendship occurred after decades of writing letters, visiting Paris, and Cézanne serving as best man at Zola's wedding. Zola adapted some of Cézanne's personal idiosyncrasies for a character in the novel L’Oeuvre. This portrayal of an oafish, peculiar artist named Claude Lantier (who kills himself) did not sit well with Cézanne. After the rupture of their relationship in 1886, the friends never spoke again. In an editorial in Le Figaro, Zola later decried Cézanne's artistic efforts, calling him “an aborted great talent.” Despite such harsh words, Zola owned as many as 12 of Cézanne's paintings.