Happy Birthday, Paul Cézanne

Oranges

Today marks the birthday of Paul Cézanne.

Paul Cézanne’s life is a poignant reminder that it is not easy to be the bridge between ideas. It takes courage to go forward into unknown territory, alone without support or encouragement.  Cézanne was the connection between two art forms – late 19th century Impressionism and early 20th century Cubism.

Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso bestowed Paul Cézanne with the honoured title of “the father of us all,” yet few recognized or celebrated his genius during his lifetime. He once said, “The world doesn’t understand me and I don’t understand the world, that’s why I’ve withdrawn from it.”

Paul Cézanne lived in Paris, met Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, became friends with Émile Zola and Paul Gauguin, and gained inspiration from visits to the Louvre. Even so, he was plagued by self-doubt. His artwork had the characteristics of the Impressionist style, but they never took on a delicate aesthetic sentiment. Some even say that his Impressionist style was unsettling and strained. In the 1880s, he saw less of his friends, choosing to live in isolation in Aix en Provence, in the South of France. Things changed in the 1890s, when Pissarro, Monet and Renoir urged the art dealer Ambroise Vollard to display several of Cézanne’s paintings. The time was right; public interest began to develop and a fresh appreciation of his work came into being.

Throughout those long years when his work engendered disappointing reactions, Paul Cézanne was establishing new paradigms for the development of modern art. “Genius is the ability to renew one’s emotions in daily experience,” he was quoted as saying. He lived by those words.

Happy birthday, Paul Cézanne! You have given me much to think about. I now ask myself – how often do I pass by artwork without giving it the due consideration and attention it deserves? Have I really tried to understand what the artist was trying to convey? Did I miss the opportunity to see something new, something dynamic because it didn’t fit into my notion of what constitutes art? Do I care enough about the artistic journey to pay attention?  Would I have recognized your genius in your time?

“A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.” 

Paul Cézanne

15 Comments

  1. a ferreira

    Great artists that we appreciate nowadays are known for having experienced huge criticism during their life time. Mondrian used to paint flowers when in need of money (and signed just M), Tchaikowsky’s music was hated by his contemporaries (his own wife included), and so on…
    Innovation is never welcomed by the masses. You’re not part of the masses 🙂 but I think you’re absolutely right, we should pay more attention to new forms of art and try to look at them without preconceptions.

    1. Clanmother

      Thank you for adding depth to this dialogue. Just the other day I was on the website for The Metropolitan Museum of Art and came across their exhibition on Ink Art: Past and Present in Contemporary China. The subtle nuances, the historical layers, the dynamics of global diversity are clearly evident. This art challenges and compels us to look more closely into the creative process. I look forward to our ongoing dialogue in 2014. 🙂

      http://www.metmuseum.org/Home/Exhibitions/listings/2013/ink-art

    1. Clanmother

      Thank you for your visit. I remember the first time I saw “The Kitchen Table” at the Musee d’Orsay!!! It was an extraordinary moment.

      “The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.” Paul Cézanne

    1. Clanmother

      I love reading sprees…
      I have just ordered a couple of books through the Vancouver Public Library and am awaiting their arrival. I am fascinated by Cezanne’s decision to work in isolation. Until 1895, no one had really seen his work as a whole or could see how his intricate experiments had transformed his creative output over the years. Is it possible that if he had remained in Paris, his genius would have been stymied? Perhaps being isolated allowed his mind to flow more freely.

    1. Clanmother

      Did I ever mention that I was in a “change management” course that spanned about 5 days? About 4 times each day, the professor would ask us to move to a new seat. By the end of the week, everyone was annoyed by this task. After all, we had to gather up our books, our notepads, pens, laptops, etc etc etc.

      The professor was rather unsympathetic. And for good reason! We had come to learn how to change, but we were disgruntled by a simple “change activity.” You are right – it is very easy to dismiss things when it means that we may have to reevaluate or redefine our thought process.

      1. Gallivanta

        Your group’s annoyance with change made me think of how people at church (myself included) often like to sit in the same pew for always and ever! And are quite put out if someone else takes their seat . And, again, there was much unease at our church when the entire seating arrangement was reconfigured…..we are creatures of habit 🙂 But change revitalises the mind. It is a good exercise, when at the supermarket, to go around it in a different direction from your usual one!

      2. Clanmother

        What a great idea! I’m going to the supermarket and try it from a different direction. I can only imagine the unease when the entire seating arrangement was reconfigured! Just recently my hairdresser’s salon had some minor renovations. The coat rack is now in a different location. Utter chaos! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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