The Cezanne works, including a gathering of 110 oil paintings, 40 watercolors and 40 drawings from public and private collections around the world, will be on view here from May to August 1996.
The retrospective opens in Paris in the fall of 1995; it travels to London's Tate Gallery in late winter, before arriving here in spring '96.
The exhibition comes 100 years after Cezanne's first retrospective at Ambroise Vollard's Paris gallery.
Philadelphia is a natural choice for this international exhibition, says Joseph Rishel, the Museum of Art's senior curator of European painting before 1900.
"Philadelphia is a pilgrimage site for anyone seriously interested in Cezanne," he says. "If you add up us and the Barnes Foundation, you have the strongest collection of Cezannes in the country right here in this neck of the woods."
The Barnes Foundation in Merion has 66 paintings and watercolors. The museum has 16 oil paintings, seven watercolors, 82 drawings and a complete set of prints. Quite a number of private collectors in the area also have Cezannes, he adds.
Rishel says that Americans were eagerly buying Cezannes when Europeans were not, because "Americans were up for the new, much more readily than anyone in Europe. At a certain moment in collecting impressionists, the Americans were in there, sooner than other national types."
But Cezanne can't be neatly categorized as an impressionist, says Rishel. Although the artist was criticized in Paris for exhibiting his works with the much maligned impressionists in 1874, he later abandoned this style to try something different. This later work is known for its solidity and constancy.