Tag Archives: PAUL CEZANNE


Paul Cézanne, c. 1861







Paul Cezanne was a revolutionary painter who recognised the totality of Painting, unlike the Impressionists who just painted their sense impressions ,Cezanne  tried to get underneath the actual picture and use colour in blocks of paint .He  rejected line or modelling but concerned himself with contrasts and harmony. “There is no such thing as line or modelling there are only contrasts .these are contrasts of light and dark but the contrasts given by the sensation of colour”. [1].

Cezanne totally rejected the method of the Impressionists who were just interested in light and its reflection .All  of Cezanne’s pictures are of Greens and blues.


As several commentators have observed ” The viewpoint is often at ground level , but at times from above sometimes a panorama sometimes narrowly focused. The line of the Horizon is seldom in its traditional place”. [2].

Cezanne is interested in the structure of the Painting and how without using line or contours he can change the shape of the picture. “The creation of a new kind of spatial structure which Cezanne only fully developed after 1895 was the result of obstinate individuality”. [3].


The whole landscape of the L’estaque is shown in one movement. He often scraped the paint onto the palette without using the brush and always use geometric grids before he started painting. “He was giving unity to his landscape by a uniform treatment of hatched brushstrokes”.[4].

He changed  his whole way of painting “From now on traditional perspective and modelling by shadow were totally abandoned .at times space does not really exist and all the elements constituting the picture are placed on a single continuos plane”. [5].

In a letter to his Friend Emile Bernard Cezanne explains this technique. “The sensation f colour which give the light cause abstractions which do not allow me to cover my canvass nor complete the limits of objects where their points of contact are fine and delicate”. [6].


Cezanne never used figures in his landscapes .His  sole purpose was to ensure a totality of the picture eliminating picture space by drawing  in one single flowing movement.

Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger commented “he has plumbed the depths of reality with the eye of a window. He has taught us to master the vitality of the Universe .For  him we have learned to alter the colouring of objects and to alter its subject”. [7]. This was a comment by two Cubists commentators. Another great abstract painter Kasimir Malevich commented “Cezanne is a great master because he was able to express painterly sensation in the pure form”. [8].


In his painting of the Gardner Cezanne has used the palette very carefully and using primary colours , the blurred images show that Cezanne is experimenting with greens and yellows. They appear as semi fantasy pictures.

AS Thomas Crow shows in 19th Century Critical art “No artist was more critical than he himself in exploring both the cognitive and perceptual mechanisms of seeing and representing”.[9].


Crow continues “Painted with looping and undulating strokes of paint the riverbank , water foliages mountain and sky are given equal visual weight suggesting an all over two dimensional structural balance”. [10].

The importance for the cubists and abstraction later in the 20th century is explained by Roberta Bernabel “He anticipated the views and practices of the avant  garde artists of the early 20th century not only with apt observations on art but above all with his paintings seen as astoundingly modern”. [11].


In the three bathers Cezanne is experimenting with contours and shapes altering the environment to include sky clouds and other items. ” The picture embraces everything in one grand expansive panorama , the waters surface and the sky, tall trees incline towards the middle of the composition creating a protective space that the bathers organise through the spatial structure of their bodies”. [12].

His altering of body shapes and the structure of the painting led to Cubism without Cezanne there would have been no Cubism or abstraction. “Countless artists have based their paintings on his ideas and works including Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse. Kasimir Malevich Umberto Boccioni and Piet Mondrian”. [13].


In The Modern Olympia which can be compared to Manet’s Modern Olympia the whole painting is like a Parody of Manet’s picture instead of a Black servant Cezanne has inserted a black Dog plus himself , it has semi erotic feelings but the body of Olympia is large and not slim and attractive as in Manet’s painting , again Cezanne is looking at the structure and using colour without lines or contours to alter the whole perception of the picture.


In The Card Players Cezanne does not concentrate on the players as such but considers their thoughts. As Meyer Shapiro comments “In Cezanne’s paintings of the theme we find none of the familiar aspects of the card game .He has chosen to represent a moment of pure mediation”. [14].

“Cezanne differs from his successors in the 20th Century in that he is attached to the directly seen world as his sole object for mediation”. [15].

Shapiro who is a foremost Marxist Art Historian gives an all rounded view of Cezanne ‘s Art. It is in essence a revolution. He states “Cezanne had to create a new method of painting , he loosened the perspective system of traditional art and gave to the space the image of the world created free hand and put together piecemeal from successive perceptions”. [16].

“Cezanne’s accomplishments has a unique importance for our thinking about Art. his work is living proof that a painter can achieve a profound expression by giving form to his perceptions of the world about him”. [17]

“Tilting vertical objects , the discontinuities in the shifting level of the segments of an interrupted horizontal edge contribute to the effect of a perpetual searching and balancing of forms”. [18].

I will finish by quoting Shapiro who in a nutshell has explained the importance of Cezanne for 20th Century art. He was responsible for changing art that would lead to Cubism abstraction and other forms of 20th Century art including Pop art , Abstract Expressionism and Conceptual art. without Cezanne none of these developments would have taken place.



2)   DITTO PG.54

3)     DITTO PG.67

4)      DITTO  PG.102

5)      DITTO PG.1111

6)         DU CUBISME 1912

7)           MALEVICH PG.158


9)      19th Century critical art pg.389

10)     Ditto pg.393

11)      Masters of art  pg.6

12)      Ditto   pg.15

13)       Ditto pg.21

14)        Ditto  pg.25

15)        Cezanne Meyer Shapiro PDF FILE

16)        Ditto

 17)        Ditto

  18)       Ditto