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Cézanne Portraits

November 11, 2017

Great exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Interesting to see Cézanne very much exposed through his portraits. They said he never painted portrait commissions or sold any so they really were the workings of the inner artist, working things out for himself.

 

The overriding impression I was left with is of an artist' continuous struggle. Sometime achieving a satisfactory result, other times leaving it unresolved. There are basic struggles with draftsmanship, in particular the drawing of hands and the proportions of facial features and accessories. Struggles or experiments with techniques and methods. Heavy use of blacks in early paintings. Almost cartoon like black outlines in places. Then other pictures where his distinctive fractured colour modulations gives way to cubist style glowing edges.

 

A constant searching for an elusive truth in painting using many languages but with the same voice.

 

There are several 'stand out' paintings which are the ones you generally see reproduced and it is good to see and be reminded of all the other less successful paintings it took to arrive at these.

 

The difference between what works and what doesn't is very elusive and impossible to quantify. You can easily see when an image has been painted from the heart and when it squires a magic inner life of its own.

 

To stand before an artists self portrait standing in front of it in the position he would have done whilst painting it is as close as you will get to meeting the artist in person.

 

Standing as though at the easel in front of his self portrait with a landscape background c.1875 I felt as if I was meeting Cézanne in the studio.

 

It's very difficult to image how radical his paintings would have seemed in their time now that we are so used to seeing this style of art. It would have been interesting to have some contemporary portraits of that period as a comparison.

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