Cézanne: A Life
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Alex Danchev gives us the first comprehensive assessment of the revolutionary work and restless life of Paul Cézanne to be published in decades. One of the most influential painters of his time and beyond, Cézanne was the exemplary artist-creator of the modern age who changed the way we see the world.
With brisk intellect, rich documentation, and eighty-eight color and fifty-two black-and-white illustrations, Danchev tells the story of an artist who was originally considered a madman, a barbarian, and a sociopath. Beginning with the unsettled teenager in Aix, Danchev takes us through the trials of a painter who believed that art must be an expression of temperament but was tormented by self-doubt, who was rejected by the Salon for forty years, who sold nothing outside his immediate circle until his thirties, who had a family that he kept secret from his father until his forties, who had his first exhibition at the age of fifty-six--but who fiercely maintained his revolutionary beliefs. Danchev shows us how the beliefs Cézanne held and the life he led became the obsession and inspiration of artists, writers, poets, and philosophers from Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso to Samuel Beckett and Allen Ginsberg. A special feature of the book is a remarkable series of Cézanne's self-portraits, reproduced in full color.
Cézanne is not only the fascinating life of a visionary artist and extraordinary human being but also a searching assessment of his ongoing influence in the artistic imagination of our time. A stunning portrait of a monumentally important artist, this is a biography not to be missed.
ALEX DANCHEV was educated at University College, Oxford; Trinity Hall, Cambridge; and King's College London. He is the author of several highly acclaimed biographies, including Georges Braque. His most recent books are a collection of essays, On Art and War and Terror, and 100 Artists' Manifestos. He writes regularly for The Times Literary Supplement and Times Higher Education. He has held fellowships at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.; St. Antony's College, Oxford; and King's College London. He is a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham. He lives in England.
proceeded to defend “the theory of his book—namely that no painter working in the modern movement had achieved a result equivalent to that which had been achieved by at least three or four writers working in the same movement, inspired by the same ideas, animated by the same aestheticism.” None of the assembled company had the temerity to proffer the name of Cézanne. When someone mentioned Degas, Zola retorted: “I cannot accept a man who shuts himself up all his life to draw a ballet girl as
the socket of the left eye that has a rapport with the background; here, too, the outline is elusive.94 Cézanne’s encapsulation for Bernard of the essence of the enterprise was “to give the image of what we see, forgetting everything that has appeared before us.” He was remembering and forgetting and transforming. If his paintings were memories of museums, as he told Renoir, they were also detonators of the material world.95 On 7 November 1895 he went on an excursion. Cézanne, Emperaire, and
receiving station were jammed. These transmission faults were intensely frustrating. They recurred; but they passed, and they very rarely stopped him working. Sometimes, it seems, he could work through them. Once he complained of “the state of his nerves,” which prevented him from writing a long letter to his son, but not from going out sur le motif that afternoon. “I received your esteemed [letter] of … which I left in the country,” he wrote to Bernard on another occasion. “If I delayed
“the motif escapes you” (le motif vous échappe). The sense of these remarks lies more in professional exasperation than in sexual excitation. It is a conversation, not a confession. Speaking as one artist to another, Cézanne is complaining that models tend to shift off the pose. If you are not careful, they move, in which case the whole setup is compromised and the work is spoiled. Monitoring the model is a distraction—the motif escapes you. Even professional models could not be relied upon to
tortures.…I lived all the torments with a powerless energy that consumed itself, either for want of audacity or, sometimes, experience. Perhaps I despaired of making myself understood, or feared being understood too well.…Oh to feel born for love, to make a woman very happy, and to have never found anyone, not even a brave and noble Marceline [from The Marriage of Figaro] or some old marchioness! To carry treasures in a pouch and not to be able to meet a child, some young girl interested in being