Conversations with CA?Zanne

Paul Cezanne, Author, Michael Doran, Author, Michael Doran, Editor
Paul Cezanne, Author, Michael Doran, Author, Michael Doran, Editor University of California Press $50 (312p) ISBN 978-0-520-22517-6
Paperback - 312 pages - 978-0-520-22519-0
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Once admired as a forerunner of modernists like Picasso and Braque, Cezanne is now appreciated on his own, and some art history mavens are even accepting that his achievement was unmatched by later generations. This is the long-awaited English version of a book that appeared in French in 1978 and has ever since been a cornerstone of Cezanne studies. Doran, formerly librarian at London's distinguished Courtauld Institute, is also a painter, which may have helped him choose the most vivid contemporary reminiscences of the mysterious French artist. Generally thought to have been closemouthed, Cezanne on the contrary turns out to be almost garrulous in these excerpts from contemporary memoirs and other documents. Statements range from homey details, such as that his favorite food was ""potatoes with oil"" and his favorite musician Weber, to sober proclamations about art: ""Render nature with the cylinder, the sphere, and the cone, arranged in perspective so that each side of an object or of a plane is directed toward a central point."" While Cezanne rejects what he calls ""literary"" painting (painting that migrates too far from visual reality), he was much inspired by reading: ""I saw a tone of Flaubert, an atmosphere, something indefinable, a bluish and russet color which emanated, it seemed to me, from Madame Bovary."" This and many other fascinating observations come from the memoirs of author Joachim Gasquet, criticized by some art historians for possibly reporting Cezanne's words inexactly. Never mind: they ring true, giving the real gist of a personality. So lively and fresh are these impressions that, by contrast, an analytical afterword in typical art historical prose by Lawrence Gowing is a real anticlimax. Better is a cogent biographical preface by scholar Richard Schiff. This book is indispensable reading for anyone passionate about painting. (Apr.)
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