Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly — 1910 (Heft 31)

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a Provençal by birth, he lived and worked far from Paris in the little town of
Aix, some twenty-five miles from Marseilles. It is recorded by Emil Bernard,
who was for twenty years the pupil and companion of Cézanne, that the latter
was conscious of a defect of eyesight. “I see the planes overlapping one
another,” he would say, “and sometimes the vertical lines appear to fall.”
The result was that his eyes had a natural tendency to simplify the object
viewed, by reducing the effects of distance and by flattening the planes into a
pattern. On the other hand he had instinct for the value of bulk of form. He
was chiefly preoccupied with the effort to realize it. Thus in his pictures he
not only simplifies form but renders its plasticity. While divesting it of its
accidental associations, he expresses its essential qualities, rendering abstrac-
tions of its shape and bulk, color and texture. His pictures of landscape and
still life, in which he specially excelled, are extraordinarily stimulating in their
suggestion to the imagination. Instead of a representation of the obvious
facts, there is evoked from the latter an abstract realization of the significance
of plasticity and construction; moreover of color.
For Cézanne has started the modern painter on a new use of color, which
again is an old one. It is practically the Venetian attitude toward color,
especially that of Paul Veronese. Whistler had set the example of low tonali-
ties, seeking for color in the penumbra where their vividness and strength are
veiled in half light and half shadow. The luminarists, on the other hand,
trying to render the appearance of light, decolorized the hues of the scene,
raising them to the highest possible key by mixing white with the pigments.
Cézanne, however, a son of the South, accustomed to glowing sunshine,
turned from the rendering of the effects of light to the expression of color as
it is affected by light. His hues, instead of being decolorized or veiled with
mists of obscurity, burn with the absorbed heat and the vitalizing glow of
sunlight. No painter, since Paul Veronese, has excelled Cézanne in the
clarity, the depth and fulness of his color schemes. Compared with his
contemporaries and immediate predecessors, he has simplified color and in
doing so has evoked more completely than they its abstract qualities of
Simplification and expression, both of form and color,—those are the
aims which the example of Cézanne has put in the forefront of the new thought
in painting. At the same time this new effort to obtain simplification and
expression represents a reaction from recent impressionism. There was no
viewing of realism through the medium of a temperament in Cézanne’s
approach to nature. He was an out and out realist; in the philosophic sense
of the term, that he extracted his vision of the subject from the actual appear-
ances, clearly seen in open light. The process by which he extracted it was
an exhaustive application of analysis, designed to strip the vision of all
superfluities and accidents and reduce it to its simplest statement of expres-
sional form and color. The abstraction, at which he arrives, has not been
superimposed upon the facts by his temperament or imagination, but actually
extracted from the facts themselves. While Whistler may be compared with
Maeterlinck, Cézanne takes his stand beside Ibsen.

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