Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
Picasso called Cézanne “the father of us all”. Because he was clearly the forerunner of all great modern artists. But here comes another, unexpected Cézanne: the Musée de Luxembourg is showing “Cézanne and Paris”.
If you had to associate Cézanne to a region, or a city, you would definitely pick the Provence and Avignon. Think about the famous paintings of the Montage Saint-Victoire. Think about the South of France and most of all of the light there, which so deeply influenced his work. But strangely, Cézanne spent at least as much time in Paris and its surrounding area as he did down South. More surprisingly: Half of his 954 paintings were painted in and around Paris.
“Cézanne and Paris” is not showing the paintings we all know. It’s more a Cézanne off the beaten track on display here. The intention of this exhibition is to show how Paris influenced Cézanne and his work. How the city made the artist.
It was Emile Zola, the writer, who left Avignon first. And he invited his friend to follow him. He wasn’t promising him wealth and glory, but the excitement of a poor, but bohemian life. A place to conquer.
Cezanne arrived in 1861 and over two decades Paris was the epicentre of his life and his work. When he first visited the Louvre, he said, “the Louvre is the book which teaches us to read”. But then he closed the book and reinvented representation.
Once in Paris, Cezanne was pretty restless, often left the city for the countryside and moved nearly twenty times. Now you might ask if he painted a lot of views of Paris. Not at all. He seldom painted the city. But he very much loved the banks of the Marne. Imagine, at the end of his life there was the Eiffel Tower, strikingly beautiful, perturbing, but Cézanne preferred to paint apples, simple apples in front of wallpaper, that was his pursuit of modernity.
But there are a few notable exceptions: the wonderful “Rue des Saules” in Montmartre, for example, where Cézanne had set up his easel. But even Montmartre looks strangely deserted. He sees Paris more as a landscape then as a place of civilisation, history and exchange. The Paris of Cézanne is a Paris of structures, of roofs, of shade of greys, but not a city of human beings.
In this exhibition you can really discover unknown aspects of his work. It shows that Cézanne loved nature, but needed the stimulus of the city to progress and to succeed in making “Impressionism a solid, lasting thing as museum art”.Cézanne et Paris – From 12 October 2011 – 26 February 2012 – FINISHED!!