After teaching a painting and drawing class on the upper west side once a week, I would stroll through central park after class ultimately to be pulled into the Metropolitan Museum of Art like a helpless fleck of iron before a mega-magnet. Wandering through the Met, very often I wound up in another magnetic field; standing in front of a Cezanne. What is it about this painter that died a hundred and five years ago (born 172 years ago today) that is still so compelling? I’ve read the books, and know what people have said about him and know what he said about what he thought he was doing, but still something is there itching, something unanswered. He was a very scientific painter in a way, with a disciplined methodology; he observed intensely and recorded honestly. But the inquisitive depth of his perception transcended seeing the plastic world; he looked into the world before him and found that world looked back. In this reciprocal space, he painted not only what he saw and how he saw it but painted through what he saw to arrive at an essence, something elemental and essential. He slips through the barrier between the observer and the observed. What remains is not a depiction, the subject but a catalyst for deeper realizations, a means to an end to truth in structure through light and color. Often we see an artist representing nature, but with Cezanne I feel as if nature is expressing itself through him. There are theorists that talk of nature having an inherent intelligence that we could communicate with if we only knew the language. Cezanne ignores the Cartesian divide and realizes that he is nature. He has made himself a conduit- the sensations of which he speaks picking up super subtle vibrations and tuning in to nature’s radio. In a way all of his paintings are of this- and only taking on the illusion of a still life, landscape, or portrait. Perhaps on some level he knew this and realized all he needed was Mt. St. Victoire, a bowl of apples or a tree. His words give us a clue: “The Landscape becomes reflective, human and thinks itself through me. I make it an object, let it project itself and endure within my painting….I become the subjective consciousness of the landscape, and my painting becomes its objective consciousness.”

Some Thoughts on Cezanne | 2011 | Art, Cartesian dualism, intelligence, intelligence in nature, looking, nature, painter, painting, Paul Cezanne, reciprocal space, seeing, vibrations | Comments (0)