Friday, June 09, 2006

Could Cezanne draw ?

Could Cezanne draw ?

This is a question to which I've always figured the answer was "No" -- he just didn't seem to have the ability to imagine a 3-dimensional space (whether deep or shallow) and articulate lines within it. When I see a painting like "Bathers" -- I'm thinking this is a man who would like to draw, but couldn't ---- so he developed a style that didn't require that ability. (a style which, by the way, I think was often very successful with landscape or still-life.)

But then I saw the following drawing at an exhibit at the Art Institute:

This drawing is dated to 1862 -- when Cezanne was taking art classes at the age of 23 -- and it looks to me like a fine academic study. It has volume, volumes-on-top-of-volumes, and a sense of design within space. It's kind of strong -- and delicious -- and it's what I'd want from a talented performer in the school of Jacques Louis David -- a figure set to do some noble thing in a Classical dream.

But did Cezanne actually do it ? There's a unbroken provenance from the artist's hand to the current owner -- but how much was done by his teacher ? Especially when we consider the next drawing that was done one year later:

What a difference a year makes -- or -- what a difference the presence of a good teacher made.

I hate to lock-step with conventional art history -- but it does now seem to me that Cezanne had the ability to draw figures in the European tradition -- he just chose to go in a different direction. (and having made that decision, I wish he -- and those who followed his lead -- had stayed away from the figure thereafter)


Blogger Gawain said...

This could have been a case of a progressive mental disease... :)

June 09, 2006  
Blogger Conrad H. Roth said...

I like this one, unusual and to the point. Picasso was an excellent draughtsman too, though most don't know it. I assume you hate Picasso? Here's what Salvador Dali (always hilarious, imho) had to say about Cezanne:

"And if all this freshly cut raw flesh does not--as I strongly suspect--suffice to "make up the weight", one should not then hesitate to add for good measure the two ponderous hands of the touching Paul Cezanne. For the poor man, in spite of his wonderful and ultra-respectable ambition to "paint like Poussin from nature" and thereby to become the master and great architect of nature, succeeded merely in becoming a kind of neo-Platonic master mason, so that instead of edifying eternal palaces for the princes of intelligence he was able only to build modest shacks capable, at best, of sheltering the indigent Bohemians of modern art, who are used to sleeping under bridges or exposed to the elements of impressionism for a couple of aesthetic summers...

"The defects of Cezanne, in his fundamentally honest character, were often consequences of his very virtues; but defects are never virtues! I can imagine the profound melancholy of the master of Aix-en-Provence, Paul Cezanne, when after having struggled so long to build a well-constructed apple on his canvas, possessed like a demon by the problem of relief, he had succeeded on the contrary only in painting it in concave!"

June 18, 2006  

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