The coloured richly heavy cloth on the right, the mirror on the left over the fireplace, and the dark-red band, which edges the wainscoting identify the settings the apartment Cezanne rented from 1888 to 1890 at 15 Quai d’Anjou, Paris. Marie-Hortense Fiquet, the subject, was a former model of the artist. They both met in 1869 at Paris art School; some artists used this spot to paint and meet the models who used to work there. Marie-Hortense Fiquet mainly worked as a bookbinder and bookseller, and modelling was just her part-time job.
The artist and Marie-Hortense Fiquet started a dating relationship. Cezanne was scared of his banker father as he could have compromised his upkeep or allowance and so, the French artist had to conceal this liaison with Marie-Hortense to great lengths from his family and friends for about 17 years. They eventually married: by then, they had a son named Paul who was born back in 1872. The couple lived separately for plenty of their married life, and unfortunately, they later divorced. It is believed that Cezanne married her in order to make his son a legitimate heir of his family fortune.
Physiological distance between wife and husband appears reflected in all her portraits. The artist gives an impression of his wife being self-absorbed, sad, bored and distant. She is more often than not, portrayed at her home, with a buttoned-up dress and parted hair in the middle. There is something attractive about her plainness. Fiquet is nothing like most of her contemporaries in the Impressionist photos, who seem to pass their days at picnics and boating parties, the sunlight warming their smooth skin and their long beautiful dresses billowing in the breeze. By contrast, Madame Cezanne looks as if she doesn’t get out of her house much.
In spite of their complicated marriage, most of Cezanne’s paintings of his wife usually attest of her strangely compelling role in his artistic development and life. He painted twenty-seven canvas portraits, in oil of his wife, who became his most-painted model. Currently, Madame Cezanne in a Red Dress by Paul Cezanne painting is at the MET, the Metropolitan Museum of Art situated in New York City.