Anonymous gift in tribute to Edward Harris and in memory of H. R. Stirlin of Switzerland
Director Emeritus Grant Holcomb speaks about this object.
Paul Cezanne, the cantankerous, crusty hermit of Aix-en-Provence, has been called the "father of modern art." Indeed, one critic recently claimed that his "influence has been so pervasive that it is difficult to name a major artist or movement in the 20th century that has not been touched by him." It's reported that Cezanne himself claimed: "There is only one painter in the world—myself!"
This painting of a village not far from where Cezanne grew up, well represents the work and the legacy of this master. It's not a picture postcard view of a resort site in southern France but, rather, Cezanne's interpretation of enduring forms, shapes and colors that he found in nature.
He rejected the photographic copying of a scene in order to render what he felt to be the underlying structures of a place—enduring forms, timelessness. Such goals explain the sense of compression and the angular, geometric structure of his work. Together, they convey his sense of L’Estaque’s hardcore solidity and stability. In this way, we see the enormous formal challenge he presented to the Impressionists, while, at the same time, laying the fundamental groundwork for the revolutionary paintings of Picasso and Braque.
Like the Impressionists, Cezanne reveled in the light of France. Novelist Emile Zola, a dear childhood friend of the painter, described the area that Cezanne painted: “the red earth bleeds, the pines have an emerald reflection; the rocks are bright with the whiteness of fresh laundry.”
And, here in the Gallery picture, we sense this brilliant light and expressive local color. The warm tones of the tile roofs and the sun hardened earth; the cool greens of the pines and the variegated blues of the sea. When looking at this painting close up, the brushwork and overlapping forms of color convey the vibrancy, freshness and even the energy of the composition; from afar, we sense the solidity, the enduring forms, that Cezanne sought in nature.
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