Sunday, March 8, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about Cézanne lately, probably because of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's exhibit, "Cézanne and Beyond." I have a fascinating exhibition catalogue called Cézanne in the Studio from the Getty Museum. It goes into exhaustive scholarly detail about the importance of a single watercolor by Cézanne, Still Life with Blue Pot. As I consider the Philadelphia Museum's extraordinary view of Cézanne's influence on modern and contemporary artists, I have been reflecting on his contributions to the evolution of abstract painting.

Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Blue Pot, c. 1900-1906, watercolor and graphite on paper,
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA

As the Getty catalogue emphasizes, although Cézanne's world was one full of representational "objects", his canvases revealed the psychological and symbolic correspondences between the object and the viewer. Cézanne's work demanded "recognition of the two-way relation between the inanimate objects of the genre and the animate world of the human subject looking at them, of the set of exchanges, substitutions, and affinities that take place in the studio between the human body and the world of things." This is abstract painting in a nutshell. In abstraction there is only the color, the forms, the light, and the dark, which come into play as "objects of the genre"; the paint handling, bold or soft, invites additional psychological interpretation relative to the viewer's position -- emotional and intellectual. The fact that the artist is both the creator of the image and the viewer, gives Cézanne's self-conscious authority an almost mystical presence. I find this to be the most captivating and compelling dynamic of abstract painting.

(Above quote taken from Cézanne in the Studio, The J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, p. 66)

1 comment:

Leslie Avon Miller said...

The colors speak to me in this work.