Cèzanne's spatial ambiguities

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Cèzanne's spatial ambiguities

From Jeffery LeMieux

Published before 2005


Piet:

I do not teach art in a university. I imagine it shows... I imagine I'll never achieve the level of discourse, decorum and intelligence needed to teach art in a university. I imagine the world can be thankful that I don't poison a serious institution with my ravings....

That said, one thing I don't have any trouble doing is reading historical accounts with an eye to bringing them into an everyday focus. Like many historical figures, I believe Cézanne's figure underwent a degree of revision, management and cleanup. But he was a guy like you and me, and I think he ought to be judged as such, without the mantle of artistic sainthood wrapped around him.

With regard to his well-known "insecurity," there are many reasons for a person's insecurity but in the end none of that matters much. Of the insecure people I have known, many are quite vicious, and vicious more often than most because they always feel threatened. I have no trouble imagining Cezanne as this type of person. His portrait of his father is quite uncomplimentary in a visual way. I am not speaking of the popularly titled one of his father reading a newspaper, but rather the one that was done on the wall of a room in his father's house. (I'm unable to locate one on the net.) Terrifically antagonistic and full of psychological animus.

Another thing I simply don't understand is how without selling much work until very late in life, he became "financially independent:" He inherited his father's estate, pure and simple. He didn't "become" financially independent, financial independence was bestowed upon him by birth, something that was withheld for some reason when his father was alive. I think Cézanne may have done much to dishonor his father. But I'm sure the senior Cézanne was a terrible man and deserved it, right? That's the impression we're left with anyhow.

What's more, late in life after his image was manufactured akin to what would be done by Stein with Picasso, Paul Cézanne became the focus of a mystery cult of younger artists and dilettantes looking to sweep away the past. His studio in Aix became a pilgrimmage, his words became pearls of wisdom, his every enigmatic act became foundational.

I simply reject this.

Still, I'd be willing to travel a bit down that road if the work at some point demonstrated a foundational academic competence, which I have not seen. Jordaens, Terbreugghen, Rubens, Velasquez, these masters knew how to model form with color, so why is what Cézanne and his followers did so revolutionary? I think Cézanne's stated approach simply RE-states a longtime and historically ongoing debate, and not even so well; certainly Cézanne's contribution to the debate appears to be infected with a modernist hubris and solipsism.

Jeffery