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LONDON (Reuters) - Three out of five Paul Cezanne card-player paintings have been reunited in a new London exhibition, alongside preparatory oil paintings and drawings in what the Courtauld Gallery called a world first.
The famous series, dating toward the end of the French master's career, were based on studies of peasants in the Aix-en-Provence region and gave them a stature rarely afforded the working classes in contemporary painting.
"Surprisingly these paintings haven't ever been brought together and looked at in detail," said Barnaby Wright, co-curator of "Cezanne's Card Players" which runs from October 21-January 16.
"This show brings together almost all of the preparatory studies," he told Reuters in the single-room exhibition.
"Peasants tended to be portrayed gambling and being somewhat disreputable, but Cezanne saw something different in the peasants working on his parents' estate."
And so in the card-player painting loaned to the Courtauld by the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, there is a bottle of wine on the table between the two figures but no glasses to drink it from.
The other two pictures from the series on display are from the Courtauld's own collection and a loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The New York gallery will host the same exhibition from February 9-May 8, 2011.
According to Wright, a fourth painting belonging to the Barnes Foundation in the United States cannot be loaned out and the fifth is in a private collection which declined to release it for the show.
Along one wall of the exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum's "The Card Players" (1890-92) is surrounded by preparatory paintings and drawings of the same men in the same dress.
There is also a series of portraits of a man leaning on a table and smoking a pipe.
The immediately visible brushwork may have appeared coarse to many 19th century viewers, but it proved an inspiration to avant-garde artists who came after Cezanne.
According to the Courtauld, Cezanne's peasants were a "touchstone" for Pablo Picasso's Cubist portraits, and artists including Fernand Leger and Jeff Wall later paid homage to them in their works.
Editing by Steve Addison