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A coming together

By Norbert Lynton / January 31, 1980



Cezanne's complex handling of traditional subject matter made him the father-figure of the modern movement ('that movement in every turn or twist of which the influence of Cezanne is traceable,' wrote Clive Bell in 1922), but it doesn't in itself account for his continuing and growing appeal. So let me reassert what we art people tend to overlook: that those who buy reproductions of this or that Cezanne still life, or 'Montagne Sainte-Victoire,' for the strength and comfort they offer are responding to his art more truly than we who get lost in examination of his shifting viewpoints or simultaneous color contrasts. The most convincing statement of what Cezanne was after was his: like that, he said, that is how my pictures should be, and he broght his hands together and clasped them tightly so that nothing can escape or is left loose. And that is how he made them joining, combining, conciliating, apple and bowl and tablecloth, nearby tree, distant mountain and farther sky, or, as in 'Woman in a Red Armchair,' shoulder and chair, face and wallpaper pattern. The poet Rilke said of one of Cezanne's portraits of his wife: 'It is as though every little bit knew of all the others.'

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