Tuesday 17 February 2015

Paul Cezanne

Another outcome of our 'Impressionist' day in London.
In his later years Cezanne attempted to solve some problems that he encountered in his painting, and consequently revolutionised painting. He admired the work of the Impressionists who had given up mixing the pigments on the palette and had applied them separately on to the canvas in small dabs and dashes, to render the flickering reflections of an open-air scene, but found it too messy. He longed for strong, intense colours as much as he longed for lucid patterns.  He found however that painting whole areas in pure primary colours endangered the illusion of reality. Pictures painted in this manner resemble flat patterns and fail to give the impression of depth. In his attempt to achieve a sense of depth without sacrificing the brightness of colours, to achieve an orderly arrangement without sacrificing the sense of depth, he sacrificed the conventional correctness of outline. His indifference to 'correct drawing' revolutionised art and earned him the title of the 'father' of modern art.
Cezanne once remarked that one must detect in nature the sphere, the cone and the cylinder - this was adopted literally by the Cubists who adopted the sphere, the cone and the cylinder in their work and who also sacrificed conventional correctness of outline. A new era in art had begun.
At the National Gallery:
Still Life with Water Jug, 1892-3
Cezanne's indifference to 'correct drawing' is best seen in this painting. As he wanted to study all the shapes on the table in their relationships he simply tilted it forward to make them come into view: a sense of depth has been achieved without sacrificing the brightness of colours.

Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses), 1894-1905
Eleven female figures repose in an imaginary landscape bordered by trees. The forms of the landscape mirror the women's sculptured bodies. Cezanne outlines the figures and the main features of the background in blue, heightening the serene atmosphere and suggesting the unity of human beings with nature.

Hillside in Provence, 1890-2

Complex rock formations close off the foreground and contrast with the open panoramic landscape beyond. Cezanne has applied paint in blocks of different colours so that the canvas appears divided into geometric bands of rocks, trees, hill and sky.

Avenue at Chantilly, 1888
This painting illustrates Cezanne's increasing interest in suggesting form and atmosphere through contrasts of colour.


The Stove in the Studio, 1865

The Avenue at the Jas de Bouffan, 1871

Alternating strips of light and dark green paint show sunlight playing on the trees late one summer afternoon. The view has been cropped at the top to give the painting an impression of depth despite its small size.

At the Courtauld:

The Lake at Annecy, 1896


Farm in Normandy, 1882

Tall Trees at the Jas de Bouffan, 1883
Most of this painting has been executed with small parallel brushstrokes. Cezanne favoured this technique in the 1880s. It creates a shimmering effect which is particularly well suited to this picture. The leaves of the trees seem to rustle in the breeze.

The Etang des Soeurs, Osny, 1875
Cezanne used a palette knife to apply the paint in broad swathes, creating a dense pattern of colours and lively surface effect. The strong diagonal sweeps of the knife across the centre of the painting, and the vivid yellow-green tones draw our attention away from the shadowed foreground to the water and foliage along the far bank.

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