Sunday, 19 April 2015


“With an apple I will astonish Paris.” - Paul Cézanne

Contemplating a painting can be a form of meditation. I often like to concentrate on a single painting, look at it, revel in its colour and composition, analyse its lines and delve into the artist’s process of creation. Often there is no better painting to do it with than an abstract one, or perhaps a still life. Once I have dissected the painting in my mind, once I have examined all its details, dipped into its colours and lines, I may go on and sketch some detail of it, draw out the lines of its compositional framework, or even copy it wholesale.

There is no better exercise for the budding painter than to copy works of the masters. Copy them, adapt them, be inspired from them, create new works of arts from them. How many of the great masters of the past have done the same! And in the process, some of them have created great works, sometimes surpassing that which inspired them. One can see the original painting and the new work of art and acknowledge both as unique and different pieces.

A single painting for this Art Sunday, Paul Cézanne’s “Still Life”, painted sometime between 1890-94. A work in oils on canvas, now in a private collection (imagine that hanging on your wall!).

Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was a French painter who is often called the father of modern art. He strove to develop an ideal synthesis of naturalistic representation, personal expression, and abstract pictorial order.  He was the son of a wealthy banker and his boyhood companion was Émile Zola, who later gained fame as a novelist and man of letters. In 1862, after a number of bitter family disputes, the aspiring artist was given a small allowance and sent to study art in Paris, where Zola had already gone. From the start he was drawn to the more radical elements of the Parisian art world. He especially admired the romantic painter Eugène Delacroix and, among the younger masters, Gustave Courbet and the notorious Edouard Manet, who exhibited realist paintings that were shocking in both style and subject matter to most of their contemporaries.

Though Cézanne considered the study of nature essential to painting, he nevertheless opposed many aspects of the Impressionistic ideals. He declared: ‘I wanted to make of Impressionism something solid and enduring, like the art in museums.’ Believing colour and form to be inseparable, he tried to emphasise structure and solidity in his work, features he thought neglected by Impressionism. For this reason he was a central figure in Post-Impressionism. He rarely dated his works (and often did not sign them either), which makes it hard to ascertain the chronology of his works. Until the end of his life he received little public success and was repeatedly rejected by the Paris Salon. In his last years his work began to influence many younger artists, including both the Fauves and the Cubists, and he is therefore often seen as a precursor of 20th-century art.

Here is some music from Cézanne’s time: Claude Debussy’s “La Plus que Lente” performed by Daniel Berman, at Flushing Town Hall.

As far as M. Émile Zola is concerned, would you like to read something of his oeuvre? How about “L’ Oeuvre” (1886). Although Zola and Cézanne were friends from childhood and in youth, they broke in later life over Zola’s fictionalised depiction of Cézanne and the Bohemian life of painters in this novel! Otherwise, you may like to read his more lurid “Nana” (1880), or the revolutionary “Germinal” (1885) or at least his fiery letter “J’ Accuse” (1898), published to condemn government corruption and prejudice over the Dreyfuss Affair.


  1. Although Cezanne turned out to be a snot about Zola, Dreyfus and non-art pressing issues in France, he really was a central figure in Post Impressionism. Even years after he died, young artists were jumping on ships and immersing themselves in Cezanne's views of Mt Sainte Victoire.

  2. Yes, his series on Mont Sainte Victoire is incredible. I think he painted it about 80 times and found something new to say every time. Henri Matisse called Cezanne “The master of us all”' and Picasso "My one and only master." Some accolade!
    CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

  3. Agree with comments above, of course. Cezanne, I think is more of a painter's painter rather than being one who will appeal to a wider public, like Monet or Renoir, say.
    I really like the way you have included contemporary music and literature in this art post. It broadens the impact of the painting and contextualizes the artist in time.