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Past Exhibitions


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Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman Collection

October 25, 2014–January 11, 2015

This exhibition presents the private collection of Henry and Rose Pearlman, which includes an outstanding selection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by artists such as Cézanne, Degas, van Gogh, Manet, Pissarro, Gauguin, and Modigliani.

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In the mid-twentieth century, businessman Henry Pearlman, the founder of Eastern Cold Storage Company, assembled an extraordinary collection of European modern art. He was particularly drawn to the work of Paul Cézanne, one of the most pivotal figures in the development of modernism. Pearlman acquired some twenty-four of Cézanne’s paintings, including one of the most significant private holdings of the artist’s watercolors. This exhibition is the first public tour of the Pearlman collection since the 1970s.

The vibrant colors, strong compositions, and bold brushwork of the School of Paris, including Chaïm Soutine and Amedeo Modigliani, reverberate throughout the collection. They accompany works by influential older artists: Édouard Manet, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Camille Pissarro. Henry Pearlman found living with these works of art in both his home and office a transformative experience, which he aimed to share with others by lending his collection. The present international tour of the Pearlman Collection has been organized in this spirit of generosity.

To complement the Pearlman holdings, five portraits by Soutine from a private collection are also on view.

Explore the exhibition further with the mobile-ready website developed by the Princeton University Art Museum. Learn more.


In the early 1940s, Henry Pearlman (1895-1974) purchased a series of early Italian, French, and American paintings which he described as “decorative but neither provocative nor moving.” His approach to collecting underwent a sea change in 1943, after the acquisition of Chaïm Soutine’s View of Céret. The dizzying landscape of houses in a French Pyrénées village with paint, as Pearlman wrote, “slashed on as if by a trowel,” inspired Pearlman to sell his previous acquisitions and dedicate himself to the study and accumulation of modern art.

Pearlman made his fortune through his Eastern Cold Storage Insulation Corporation, which dealt in refrigerated shipping. He applied his business acumen to the art world, and delighted in the strategic buying, selling, and trading of art. Pearlman endeavored to learn as much as he could about the artists whose work he purchased, studying their biographies and making the acquaintance of those who were still alive. He even occasionally traveled to the locations depicted in paintings so as to feel a closer connection to the subject matter. Pearlman collected art for his own edification, but also endeavored to share his collection with the public. In 1976, two years after Pearlman’s death, the collection began its long-term residence at the Princeton University Art Museum, where students and members of the public can enjoy it to this day.


Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was born in Aix-en-Provence, in southern France, the landscape that became his most frequent subject. In his youth, he defied his banker father’s wishes by leaving the university where he was studying law to become an artist. He showed in two Impressionist Salons before removing his art from public view for decades due to his sensitivity to criticism.

Cézanne once announced that he wished to paint nature as if no one had ever painted it. Indeed, he developed a completely new way of painting, eschewing traditional forms of perspective and laying down paint in parallel patches of color. During his lifetime, Cézanne’s art was controversial because it diverged so drastically from the norm. At the end of his life, however, young artists would visit Cézanne at his home in Aix to learn from him. He became immensely influential – a pivotal artist in the early history of modernism.

The paintings in the Pearlman Collection beautifully show Cézanne’s artistic range. They include a small, intimate portrait of the artist’s son and one of his last views of Mont Sainte-Victoire, the Provençal mountain he revisited many times throughout his career.


In addition to the paintings by Chaïm Soutine in the Pearlman Collection, five portraits by the artist from the Lewis Collection are on view. All five depict anonymous subjects, but each is deeply individuated, showing Soutine’s careful observation of the particularities of each person he painted.

Soutine (1893-1943) was born into a poor family in Smilovitchi, Lithuania, and grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community. After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vilna, Soutine moved to Paris and enrolled at the École des Beaux Arts.

Critics and collectors saw Soutine as the artistic successor to Cézanne. Like the older artist, Soutine avoided traditional forms of perspective, especially in his landscapes. Trees and buildings are tipped upward, offering a disorienting view that borders on abstraction. But Soutine’s energetic application of paint stood in contrast to the work of his predecessors. He took advantage of the three-dimensional quality of oil paint, sculpting it on the surface of the canvas in thick strands. After his death, Soutine would serve as a key influence to such important artistic figures as Willem de Kooning, Lucian Freud, and Francis Bacon.

Organization and Support

Organized by the Princeton University Art Museum in cooperation with the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation.

Support for this exhibition is provided by contributing sponsors The Coca-Cola Company and Delta Air Lines. This exhibition is also made possible by the Livingston Foundation, the Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Endowment Fund, the Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Endowment Fund, the Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Ms. Louise Sams and Mr. Jerome Grilhot, and Friends of Cézanne.