December 4, 2011

The Patience of an Apple

Cézanne: Poterie, tasse et fruits sur une nappe blanche (vers 1877)
“With an apple, I will astonish Paris,” Cézanne said. And so he did. And even today, still does. He took risks, got rejected consistently by the Salon of Paris, took more risks, was ridiculed (“a madman who paints delerium tremens”), took more risks, stayed true to his passion—and changed the art world forever. Matisse and Picasso called him the “father of us all.”

Cézanne’s influence is far reaching. His studio in Aix-en-Provence looks as if he just stepped out for a moment. Dusty apples sit on the table, his coat hangs on the rack, and his brushes and palette stand ready for his return. He loved Provence—the color of the earth, rocks, and pines and the beauty of his ever-present Mont Sainte-Victoire. 

But Cézanne also came to Paris. Although he never had a permanent address here, never stayed for more than six months, and swore he would never become Parisian, he painted nearly half of his paintings in this area.

Cézanne: Madame Cézanne (vers 1877)
The current exhibit at the Musée du Luxembourg is a peek into this Paris/Ile de France work, which continues his lifelong themes — love of nature (particularly the emotional power of water) and the beauty of shape, form, and color in still life and portraiture. He was a meticulous (and slow!) painter, meditating on every brush stroke. He favored apples in his still-life work because they lasted longer than other fruit. He favored his wife as a portraiture subject because she had the patience of an apple.

He was his own harshest critic. His painting was his passion but it was often not a pleasure. He said that it was a reminder of his own failure to realize his ideas. He was known to destroy many of his canvases in disappointment. One of the most beautiful portraits in this exhibit is of his art dealer Ambroise Vollard. All Cézanne could say of this portrait was, “I am not altogether displeased with this shirt front.” High praise indeed!

Cézanne: Ambroise Vollard, 1899
This lovely exhibition of 80 works is at the museum until 26 February, 2012. It’s popular, so get a ticket in advance and go early in the day (when there’s still oxygen in the room). You can also do some shopping in the gift store. The creative marketers are selling replicas of Cézanne’s cane, Cézanne apple/pear confiture (hopefully not made from Cézanne’s still-life apples, aged 120 years), and champagne from a maker whose label Cézanne used as an inspiration for one of his nudes. Entrepreneurial spirit at its most creative.

WICE Fan Jerry Fielder with the Cézanne "line."
For more information about the exhibit, click here. And coming soon next to the museum—an Angelina's!