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)