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Artist's Notebook

Thing of the Day - Cezanne


Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Apples and Peaches, 1905

As a woman and mother of a young child but part of the generation that has been given nearly every freedom to leave the house, why do I still feel a longing for the domestic space of the household and more than that, depictions of it like this Cezanne? What pull does it still exert upon me? Why such intense longing for the stability and beauty of traditional domestic space along with an equally intense desire to escape it? It is usually in paintings or poems that I find clues to ambiguity like this, and in particular, in this painting.

I had the pleasure of standing before this painting recently when it was included in a show at a local museum. Here is the glowing light emanating like sunlit honey from the dabbed and layered surfaces of the fruit.

There are the planes of color, sometimes as many as four or five hues in every square inch, that speak of Cezanne’s revolutionary approach to defining form with color and his powerfully contemplative working method of taking over a hundred sittings to complete a painting. There is the poetic line, now ivory black, now deepest ultramarine, on its quest for unchartered territory, embedded in memory, mined from the subconscious. One line in particular held me captive: it is the one that strives to delineate the form of a peach but hovers slightly above it. In its empty arc I can feel Cezanne’s rebellion, his inclusion of the truth in all its contradictions — its ennobling beauty and leveling ugliness. Most of all I admire Cezanne’s refusal to color in this wayward line and take away even a fraction of the wide open space it fronts like a gateway constructed of the intimate body of small peachy flesh opening to its vast soul. A space that is most convincing of course, in its ability to allow for the truth of domestic space — it’s mess and drudgery as well as its beauty.

see also: Thing of the Day — Chardin

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