Sight to Touch

Cezanne Study of Trees 1895

“In the eighteen-sixties, [Cezanne] made an abortive run at fame in Paris with crudely vehement works—privately including wacky erotica, perhaps influenced by Gustave Courbet but mainly expressing stymied lust—in palette-knife-slathered paint. (…the urbane Manet deemed him distressingly uncouth.) Cézanne absorbed the movement’s commitment to optical truth while gradually eliminating its blushes of light in favor of defining objects with patches of close-toned color, alternately warm and cool. He then increasingly holed up on his family’s estate. There he pursued a radical ambition, saying, “I want to make of impressionism something solid and lasting, like the art in the museums.” This entailed wedding sight to touch, alert for any hints of solidity in rocks and buildings, apples and heads, as—bit by bit, stroke by stroke, with hope but no compromise with respect to over-all coherence—they met his gaze. Each daub can seem to record a discrete look, at a moment isolated in time. Sometimes the eyes in a portrait peer in different directions, evidence of the discontinuous process. Picasso and Braque adapted the effect to create Cubism: visual reality fragmented in fealty to how our eyes take it in before our brains compose the illusion of having seen it whole.” [Peter Schjeldahl]

Much of the French Modern Era was created in the South. Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso and Cezanne were among the best known artists who found that they could open up their color and imagery to new ideas and new thematics. There’s an entertaining program on the how the south of France influenced and changed the Parisian Modern Era entitled The French Riviera A History in Pictures. “…For a French painter in the late 19th century leaving Paris was commercial suicide. You were not only cutting yourself off from the artistic mainstream, but traveling south was like traveling back in time to another country almost to another age…” Strangely with all the great artists and painters coming out of the South (no matter which south you might be talking about) this statement still rings true.

Cezanne Forest Path 1904-06

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