Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Picasso Cezanne

Picasso Cezanne (advertised in that order) at the Musee Granet in Aix. Picasso had a life-long admiration for Cezanne, so it's strange the two haven't met in an exhibition before.

I'm first attracted to the Cezannes, paintings in which drawing, the structure, remains visible on the surface, painting visibly composed of marks, painting moving definitively away from the 'photographic'. Cezanne's doubt and hesitation: the apple is here – no, hang on, it's here; he adds a touch of colour, then comes back a day later and draws it again, a bit lower down, to the side. You can see this in the portraits: they add up to expressive portraits but if you look closely they are composed of a number of slightly different view-points. & flattening: tables are flattened against the picture plane, and even in landscapes there's a flatness. Of course Japanese prints were by now well-known and admired, but Cezanne himself says that the intense light of the south flattens the appearance of landscape.

Which is where Cubism started: what you see depends on where you are, and when you are looking. Perspective, the single viewpoint of the lens at a single instant, is ignored, outdated. & a painting is a collection of marks, of signs. But there was another very significant influence on Picasso: African art, which wasn't another 'style' but an art that didn't try to describe the world, an art with a purpose, an art of exorcism, a creation that had the purpose of intercession. When Picasso thought of this, his connection to Cezanne became more tenuous. As a result, much of the exhibition is taken up with superficial similarities: Cezanne and Picasso both painted landscapes, still lives, portraits, but their ways of painting, even what they were trying to achieve, seem very different, Cezanne always doubting and uncertain, and Picasso, who gives the impression of never doubting anything, affirming life and the creative force.

But both painted skulls. There are a few of Picasso's skulls in the show, but sadly none of Cezanne's (nor of his Mte. Ste. Victoire paintings either). I'd love to see a show of their skull paintings together...

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