Paul Cezanne ‘Mont Sainte Victoire’ 1898-1902 Hermitage Museum, Russia
Sometimes you forget how much you loved particular artists. Recently I saw one of Cezanne’s Mont St Victoire paintings on the internet and I remembered how much his paintings influenced my art aspirations when I was young.
From his paintings I realised that landscape could be serious and not just full of chocolate box sentiments. Chocolate box sentiments are all fine and dandy but they’re all about human desire rather than the landscape itself which is what I was interested in discovering.
I think I could relate to Cezanne’s later paintings so much because the light is so bright. Similar to Australia. The blue skies. The kind of shimmering heat that affects your perceptions.
When I was at art school you were always taught that Cezanne wanted to “treat nature by the cylinder, the sphere, the cone” You can see the geometrical perceptions more obviously in his still life paintings such as the one below.
Paul Cezanne ‘Still Life’ 1893
Look at the spherical shapes of the vase and apples and the strong diagonals which create triangular shapes subliminally. If you look closely you see the broken brushwork of the impressionists. But it is so solid (unlike the impressionists) because of the structural (geometrical) stress in all the objects in the picture. The colour strengthens this. Even the tablecloth structure is stressed not the texture. It’s all about the essential structure of form and impressing this upon the viewer. Even air has form and structure according to Cezanne. But you see it more obviously in the later work and the watercolours.
In the painting at the top Cezanne flattens space, not so much like a japanese print, but to create a space where everything is unified in multiple dimensions and structure. The air, mountain, trees, buildings are all made of the same stuff. The geometry is not really obvious but embodied in his small, faceted brushstrokes which together create this kind of force field of matter and colour simultaneously. It’s almost abstract.
They are still incredible, powerful paintings. Picasso and Braque thought so especially and took off into cubism using Cezanne as a basis for their own work.
If you want to paint like Cezanne here’s one artists attempt.
Enjoyable, stimulating book about Cezanne to read. (If you can get hold of it that is) Jack Lindsay Cézanne; his life and art. United States: New York Graphic Society. 1969
‘The essence of drawing is the line exploring space.’