Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Father of Us All

Paul Cezanne, Self-Portratit (1879-82)

Any basic survey of modern art starts with Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), the post-impressionist whose distinctive approach to traditional subject matter helped define what is aesthetically "modern," and whose focus on geometric shapes and planes of color is widely accepted as paving the way for cubism – a deconstruction of form which in turn significantly shaped the development of 20th century art. If we were still in New York, I would be jumping a train for the City of Brotherly Love to catch the Philadelphia Museum of Art's well-received show, Cezanne and Beyond, before it closes at the end of May.

Paul Cezanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire (1904-06)

The show e
xplores its namesake's legacy by highlighting the influence Cezanne has had on individual artists of all stripes, from Picasso to Jasper Johns to Ellsworth Kelly to Jeff Wall, displaying Cezanne's work alongside the generations who succeeded him. If that sounds overly didactic, it is nonetheless pretty awe-inducing to consider the thought of one person's sensibility having inspired so many other artists who are titans in their own rights. Matisse, who owned one of Cezanne's "bather" paintings for over 30 years, reportedly said upon finally donating the work to the Petit Palais in Paris, "It has sustained me morally in the critical moments of my venture as an artist." If I said that hearing that didn't bring a tear to my eye, I'd be lying. Now that's a hero.

Paul Cezanne, The Bather (1885)

Cezanne and Beyond runs through May 31 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

1 comment:

Lee said...

wow - I did not know this...very interesting...I liked your use of the word 'sensibility'. It made me think that perhaps artists who sustain other's creativity also have the opposite nature..a nonsense-ability which makes their influence so long-lasting as well. I wish I was in that museum and not at work.