Art History from a painter’s perspective. Every episode examines the life and work of one painter. Exploring both the paintings these artists make, as well as the world which they inhabited.
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Cave Paintings: Episode 9 of The Painting Podcast
1:00:57In this episode, which is the first in a series of the complete history of painting, we begin by asking the big questions. Why did we start painting in the first place? Who were the cave painters? And what did they think they were doing by smearing around paint on a wall?
PAUL CEZANNE - EPISODE 7 OF THE PAINTING PODCAST
26.9.2020Become a Patron! Show Notes:In this episode we’re going to be looking at the life and work of Paul Cezanne , a painter synonymous with his aloof character and plein air paintings of the landscape he lived in nearly his whole life. Pablo Picasso regarded Cézanne as a "mother hovering over," Henri Matisse would say he was "father to us all." Inevitably, our understanding of Cézanne's painting is colored by later cubism and abstraction, focusing attention on the formal aspects of his work. His reduction of the visible world into basic, underlying shapes, the faceted brushstrokes that seem to reconstruct nature through purely painterly forms, the fracture and flattening of space - all these can be seen as the beginnings of modern art. Yet Paul Cezanne saw himself stressed that he painted from nature and according to his sensations, seeking to realize a "harmony parallel to nature."“It's not what the artist does that counts, but what he is. Cezanne would never have interested me a bit if he had lived and thought like Jacques-Emile Blanche, even if the apple he painted had been ten times as beautiful. What forces our attention is Cezanne's anxiety - that's Cezanne's lesson. ”Cézanne's insistence on redoing nature according to a system of basic forms was important to Picasso's own interest at that time. Aches on Provence Big break in 1895 at an exhibition . He had been painting for 40 years with little public recognition. When his show opened he didn’t show up, he stayed back at the studio and continued to paint. Nowadays this may seem like some sort of a publicity stunt, but in Cezanne’s case we see someone who simply coudn’t stop painting. It’s a cliche at this point, but painting really is about a pursuit of the impossible. Time and time again we see that painters are on a quest of continuous improvement. One which is never fully satisfied. “It is only there that I have found true evidence of the life of our light. Present in its simplest form the austere and tender beauty of our Provence.”One cannot look at Cezanne without thinking of Provence. He and his friends at the time were all quite familiar with the notion of “arcadia” and would read literature highlighting these themes. Arcadian presents us with a harmonious view of the world, where humans lie uncorrupted by civilization, but instead coexist with nature. This is in contrast to writers such as Thomas Moore who envisioned a Utopian civilization within it. An arcadian view represents what’s commonly called a “pastoral” view of the world. We can look at Cezanne’s landscapes and see this same type of harmony between him and the nature which he painted. His buddy Emil Zola moves to Paris and begins to write Cezanne back home. Telling him that he’d be able to draw from life for hours a day, and also copy master works in the Louvre. It’s kind of funny that his buddy, who had moved to Paris (to write about the beauty of nature ironically) had basically sent him a letter which outlined how he could work all day. Dad wanted him to go to Law school. And so he did. And Surprise! Cezanne absolutely hated it. Studying law must have been the furthest thing from roaming the countryside and painting the landscape. This became apparent that Cexanne would never be happy, so he left for Paris in 1861 after his father relented. Once in Paris he did some master copies and took some classes. He was extremely critical of himself. He started to run in the same circles as Manet and his buddies, who were all really bourgeois, but Cezanne was a bit of a country bumpkin by comparison. By 1866 he was trying to get into the Salon, but he knew that it would be rejected. It was also a good form of self promotion to be refused. He would be the company of other impressionists who were also being rejected by the salon at the time. One can look to works by Bougareau which were being done at the same time for a comparison. In his work titled “Recline after Harvest” we see a woman lying next to a field of wheat, but it appears that she hasn’t done a minute of work, but rather is longingly looking directly at the viewer. The surface of the painting is flat, and all of the values have been lovingly and correctly rendered. Compare this to a painting from Cezanne done at the same time and you’ll see a highly textured surface where paint has been smothered on with palette knives. In this respect Cezanne is signaling that this painting is not only about creating an illusory window to peer through, but it stresses the importance of the paint itself. It’s a painting about paint as much as it is about the person who is painting, or the landscape. This way of painting would be referred to as “Couillard” which referred to a weapon which was used to throw cannon balls at castles. One can still equate Cezanne’s approach with this type of aggressive action. Becomes buds with Pisarro, who was much about 10 years older than he was. He’s referred to as a father figure but I don’t necessarily agree with this because of this fact. I imagine they simply began painting together, and Pisarro showed him how to paint outdoors. Then moves to L’estaque . His palette lightens, and he lives in a small village in a humble home where he has a garden. He wanders the countryside, which was near the sea, and paints as much as possible. Here he would take the bits and pieces he learned from Pisarro, and would expand upon it. Here he would continue to work with large patches of color, which was exactly the opposite of “modeling” which would commonly occur among more academic painters. In 1874 Monet holds an exhibition of painters who had rejected the academy. Cexanne would be included with Degas, and Renoir. But Cezanne wasn’t really interested in making it big in the Paris scene as others were. I’m sure he wanted recognition, but it doesn’t seem he was attracted to any sort of fame associated with it. He would continue to paint, and his works would also continue to have a sort of natural rhythm to them. This would be years before jackson pollock would proclaim “Idon’t paint nature, I am nature” but the sentiment is still there. Cezanne moves back to his childhood home, and his father even makes a studio for him in their large home. Here he would make numerous paintings of Mountain St Victoire . He could see that this painting was ancient, and something that had impacted the environment for generations. But it was also a place where he and his friends would romp around during their youth. So it held both a personal connection as well as a larger one as well. This is why it’s such an important subject to him. The mountain itself, at only around 4000 feet isn’t that tall, however most of the area surrounding it is quite flat so it appears to be more imposing. After his father passed away the house would be sold and he bought an apartment in Aix en Provence. Where he built a studio on the top floor. He’d feel a bit cramped here, so eventually he would move to a small village where he had built a studio specifically for his working style. He had a cool slot for canvases.