HAROLD BERGLUND, still life painter, on Cezanne

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Mt St Victoire.JPG

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July 2010 Jean and I visited Aix-en-Provence. We saw Cézânne’s studio and Montagne Sainte Victoire.

 

 

 

detail of a Cezanne painting

Cezanne is an interesting case of the errors of art history. In his letter to Emile Bernard from October 25,1905 he states unequivocally "... I pursue the realization of that part of nature, which, coming into our line of vision, gives the picture. ... we must render the image of what we see, forgetting everything that existed before us."* This was written near the end of his life indicating it was the truth he had come to after years of work.

He has been wrongly attributed to be a "brain" painter, but due to his devotion to truthfull rendition of the visual reality at a time when his eyesight was failing and he could not see the colors at the edges of objects and, therefore, did not paint them, giving the paintings an abstraction quality that was not his intention. To quote the same letter again "Now, being old, nearly seventy years, the sensation of color, which give light, are the reason for the abstractions which prevent me from either covering my canvas or continuing the delimitation of the objects when their points of contact are fine and delicate; from which it results that my image or picture is incomplete."* Cezanne worked slowly and thought a great deal about his painting but that does not mean he intended to do more than render what he saw.

The challenge of rendering what we see is indeed demanding. It requires ignoring the mechanism of color constancy, sharpening the vision for nuances and training the ability to see the relationship of every part to the whole.

Harold Berglund 2002.3.10

*[Nochlin, Linda. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism 1874-1904 Sources and Documents, Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1966 p. 95 (from John Rewald, ed. Paul Cezannes Letters, trans. Marguerite Kay, London, Bruno Cassirer, 1941)]