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Paul Cézanne (January 19, 1839 – October 22, 1906) was a French Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne can be said to form the bridge between late 19th century Impressionism and the early 20th century's new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism.
Born: January 19th, 1839
Died: October 22nd, 1906
Quotes: 62 sourced quotes total (includes 3 about)
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You positively paint like a madman.
Painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realizing sensations.
I saw Monet and Renoir at about the end of December; they had been on holiday in Genoa, in Italy.
See how the light tenderly love the apricots, it takes them over completely, enters into their pulp, light them from all sides! But it is miserly with the peaches and light only one side of them.
Cézanne's painting is strictly painting, and its value is immense; but Van Gogh's painting has the Outsider's characteristic: it is a laboratory refuse of a man who treated his own life as an experiment in living; it faithfully records moods and developments of vision on the manner of a Bildungsroman.
Art has a harmony which parallels that of nature. The people who tell you that the artist is always inferior to nature are idiots! He is parallel to it. Unless, of course, he deliberately intervenes. His whole aim must be silence. He must silence all the voices of prejudice within him, he must forget.. ..And then the entire landscape will engrave itself on the sensitive plate of his being.
..But there is better. Simplicity, being direct. Everything else is just a game, just building castles in the sky... .. Basically I don’t think of anything when I paint. I see colours. I strive with joy to convey them on to my canvas just as I see them. They arrange themselves as they choose, any old way. Sometimes that makes a picture. I’m brainless animal. Very content if I could be just that..
Colour, if I may say so, is biological. Colour is alive and colour alone makes things come alive.. ..Without losing any part of myself, I need to get back to that instinct, so that these colours in the scattered fields signify an idea to me, just as to them they signify a crop. Confronted by a yellow, they spontaneously feel the harvesting activity required of them, just as I, when faced with the same ripening tint..
I work obstinately, and once in a while I catch a glimpse of the Promised Land. Am I to be like te great leader of the Hebrews, or will I really attain unto it?… …I have a large studio in the country. I can work better there than in the city. I have made some progress. Oh, why so late and so painful? Must art indeed be a priesthood, demanding that the faithful be bound to it body and soul?
Painting certainly means more to me than everything else in the world. I think my mind becomes clearer when I am in the presence of nature. Unfortunately, the realization of my sensations is always a very painful process with me. I can’t seem to express the intensity which beats in upon my senses. I haven’t at my command the magnificent richness of color which enlivens Nature…. …Look at that cloud; I should like to be able to paint that! Monet could. He had muscle.
Alas, because I’m no longer innocent. We’re civilized beings. Whether we like it or not, we have the cares and concerns of classical civilization in our bones. I want to express myself clearly when I paint. In people who feign ignorance there is a kind of barbarism even more detestable than the academic kind: it’s no longer possible to be ignorant today. One no longer is. We come into the world armed with facility. Facility is the death of art and we must rid ourselves of it.
He (the painter Manet) hits of the tone.. ..but his work lacks unity and temperament too. (ca. 1863)
How does he do it? He cannot put two touches of colour on a canvas without its being very good
Everybody’s going crazy over the Impressionists; what art needs is a Poussin made over according to nature. There you have it in a nutshell.
I've ripped it to pieces; your portrait, you know. I tried to work on it this morning, but it went from bad to worse, so I destroyed it...
As a painter I am beginning to see more clearly how to work from Nature.. .But I still can't do justice to the intensity unfolding before my eyes.
Don’t you think your Corot (remark to Guilemet the painter) is a little short on temperament? I’m painting a portrait of Vallabreque; the highlight on the nose is pure vermilion (remark of Cezanne ca. 1860)
You wretch! (Cezanne is portraying the art dealer Vollard who changed his pose during the painter session) You've spoiled the pose. Do I have to tell you again you must sit like an apple? Does an apple move?
The sun here (in L'Estaque where Cezanne is painting then) is so terrific that objects appear silhouetted not only in white or black, but in blue, red, brown, violet. I may be wrong, but it seems to me to be the opposite of modeling.
And art puts us, I believe, in a state of grace in which we experience a universal emotion in an, as it were, religious but in the same time perfectly natural way. General harmony, such as we find in colour, is located all around us.
Who we are and how we appear to the world is always filled with paradox. Being ourselves is like Cézanne painting a landscape—he who was always tentative, always questioning, never fully sure but always attempting to respond honestly to his "little sensations" as he called them.
It's like Impressionism. They all do it at the Salons. Oh, very discreetly! I too was an Impressionist. I don't conceal the fact. Pissarro had an enormous influence on me. Bit I wanted to make out of impressionism something solid and lasting like the art of the museums.
Yes, a bunch of carrots, observed directly, painted simply in the personal way one sees it, worth more than the Ecole’s everlasting slices of buttered bread, that tobacco-juice painting, slavishly done by the book? The day is coming when a single original carrot will give birth to a revolution.
Anyone who wants to paint should read Bacon. He defined the artists as homo additus naturae.. ..Bacon had the right idea, but listen Monsieur Vollard, speaking of nature, the English philosopher, (Bacon) didn't for-see our open-air school, nor that other calamity which has followed close upon its heels: open-air indoors.
Here you are, put this somewhere, on your work table. You must always have this before your eyes.. ..It’s a new order of painting. Our Renaissance starts here.. ..There’s a pictorial truth in things. This rose and this white lead us to it by a path hitherto unknown to our sensibility..
..in my ideal of a good painting; there's unity. The drawing and the colour are no longer distinct; as soon as you paint you draw; the more the colours harmonize, the more precise the drawing becomes. I know that from experience. When the colour is at its richest, the form is at its fullest.
Maybe Delacroix stands for Romanticism. He stuffed himself with too much Shakespeare and Dante, thumbed through too much Faust. His palette is still the most beautiful in France, and I tell you no one under the sky had more charm and pathos combined than he, or more vibration of colour. We all paint in his language, as you all write in Hugo's.
That's my great ambition. To be sure! Every time I attack a canvas I feel convinced, I believe that something's going to come of it.. .. But I immediately remember that I've always failed before. Then I taste blood.. .. I never know where I am going or where I want to go with this damned profession. All the theories mess you up inside.
Alas! The memories that are swallowed up in the abyss of the years! I’m all alone now and I would never be able to escape from the self-seeking of human kind anyway. Now it’s theft, conceit, infatuation, and now it’s rapine or seizure of one’s production. But Nature is very beautiful. They can’t take that away from me. (the last conversation Vollard had with Cezanne)
Let's not eliminate nature. Too bad if we fail. You see, in his 'Dejeuner sur l'herbe', Manet ought to have added - I don't know what - a touch of this nobility, whatever it is in this picture that conveys heaven to our every sense. Look at the golden flow of the tall woman, the other one's back... They are alive and they are divine.
I still work with difficulty, but I seem to get along. That is the important thing to me. Sensations form the foundation of my work, and they are imperishable, I think. Moreover, I am getting rid of that devil who, as you know, used to stand behind me and forced me at will to "imitate"; he’s not even dangerous any more. (one week later Cezanne died))
Degas isn't enough of a painter; he doesn't have enough of that! With a little bit of temperament one can manage to be a painter, It's enough to have a sense of art, and that sense is no doubt what the bourgeoisie fear most.. ..For a painter, sensation is at the bottom of everything. I will go on repeating it forever. Procedures are not what I advocate.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to paint a nude there? (along the river near Aix) There are innumerable motifs here on the banks of the river; the same spot viewed from a different angle offers a subject of the utmost interest. It is so varied that I think I could keep busy for months without changing my place, simply turning now tot the right and now to the left.
But what an eye Monet has, the most prodigious eye since painting began! I raise my hat to him. As for Courbet, he already had the image in his eye, ready-made. Monet used to visit him, you know, in his early days. . ..But a touch of green, believe me, is enough to give us a landscape, just as a flesh tone will translate a face for us..
Monet’s cliffs (Etretat) will survive as a prodigious series, as will a hundred others of his canvases.. ..He’ll be in the Louvre, for sure, alongside Constable and Turner. Damn it, he’s even greater. He painted the iridescence of the earth. He’s painted water. Remember those Rouen cathedrals (series of paintings of Monet).. ..But where everything slips away in these pictures of Monet's, nowadays we must insert a solidity, a framework..
When I'am outlining the skin of a lovely peach with soft touches of paint, or a sad old apple, I catch a glimpse in the reflections they exchange of the same mild shadow of renunciation, the same love of the sun, the same recollection of the dew.. ..Why do we divide up the world? Does this reflects our egoism?.. ..The prism is our first step towards God, our seven beatitudes.
..The Night-watch (large and famous painting of Dutch 17th century painter Rembrandt.. ..the grandiose - I don’t say it in bad part - grows tiresome after a while. There are mountains like that; when you stand before them you shout Nom de Dieu, but for every day a simple little hill does well enough. Listen Monsieur Vollard, if the 'Raft of the Medusa' hung in my bedroom, it would make me sick.
You can’t ask a man to talk sensibly about the art of painting if he simply doesn't know anything about it. But by God, how can he (Zola was his youth friend, who used Cezanne as a model in his novel 'L’Oeuvre') dare to say that a painter is done because he has painted one bad picture? When a picture isn't realized, you pitch it in the fire and start another one.
Personally I would like to have pupils, a studio, pass on my love to them, work with them, without teaching them anything.. ..A convent, a monastery, a phalanstery of painting where one could train together.. ..but no programme, no instruction in painting.. ..drawing is still alright, it doesn't count, but painting – the way to learn is to look at the masters, above all at nature, and to watch other people painting..
Until the war [between France and Germany] as you know, my life was a mess. I wasted it. It was only at l'Estaque, when (1870-1871) I thought things over, that I really understood Pissarro, a painter like myself.. ..He was a determined man. I was overcome by a passion for work. It wasn't that I hadn't been working before, I was always working. But what I always missed, you know, was a comrade like you..
Objects enter into each other.. .. Chardin [French classical still-life painter] was the first to have glimpsed that and rendered the atmosphere of objects.. ..Notice how a light transversal plane straddling the bridge of your nose makes the values more evident to the eye.. ..Well, he noticed that before we did.. ..He neglected nothing. He also perceived that whole encounter in the atmosphere of the tiniest particles, the fine dust of emotion that surrounds objects..
That is why, perhaps, all of us derive Pissarro. He had the good luck to be born in the West Indies, where he learned how to draw without a teacher. He told me all about it. In 1865 he was already cutting out black, bitumen, raw sienna and the ocher's. That’s a fact. Never paint with anything but the three primary colours and their derivatives, he used to say me. Yes, he was the first Impressionist.
I'd like to combine melancholy and sunshine.. ..There's a sadness in Provence which no one has expressed; Poussin would have shown it in terms of some tomb, underneath the poplars of the Alyscamps.. .. I'd like to put reason in the grass and tears in the sky, like Poussin.. ..You really need to see and feel your subject very clearly, and then If I express myself with distinction and power, there's my Poussin, there's my classicism..
There is, in a apple, in a head, a culminating point, and this point - in spite of the effect, the tremendous effect: shadow or light, sensations of colour - is always the one nearest to the eye. The edge of objects recede to another point placed on your horizon. This is my great principle, my conviction, my discovery. The eye must concentrate, grasp the subject, and the brain will find a means to express it..
..that distinguished aesthete (Gustave Moreau, famous artist and art teacher in Paris, then) who paints nothing than rubbish, it is because his dreams are suggested not by the inspiration of Nature, but by what he has seen in the museums.. ..I should like to have that good man under my wing, to point out to him the doctrine of a development of art by contact with Nature. It’s so sane, so comforting, the only just conception of art.
Make others feel the same way about it. Without their realizing it! That's the meaning of art.. .. Yes, what I'm aiming for is the logical development of what we see and feel when we observe nature; only then I'm concerned with the process, processes being for us no more than simple ways of getting the public to feel what we ourselves are feeling, and of making our point. The great artists we admire have done no more.. ..Shall we have lunch?
He (Delacroix) turns David upside down. His painting is iridescent. Seeing one Constable [famous English landscape painter, admired by French painters, then] is enough to make him understand all the possibilities of landscape, and he too sets up his easel by the sea.. ..And he gas a sense of human being, of life in movement, of warmth. Everything moves, every glistens. The light!.. ..There is more warm light in this interior [probably: 'Woman of Algiers'] of his than in all of Corot's landscapes..
At Aix (Aix en Provence) I am not free; whenever I want to return to Paris, I always have to put up a fight, and, although your (his father) opposition may not be absolute, I am always deeply affected by the resistance that I encounter from you. I sincerely want my liberty unfettered.. ..it would give me great pleasure to work in the Midi, some aspects of which offer many resources to the painter; there I would be able to attack some of the problems that I wish to solve.
Nature as it is seen and nature as it is felt, the nature that is there.. (he pointed towards the green and blue plain, J. G.) and the nature that is here (he tapped his forehead, J. G.) both of which have to fuse in order to endure, to live that life, half human and half divine, which is the life of art or, if you will .. the life of god. The landscape is reflected, humanized, rationalized within me. I objectivize it, project it, fix it on my canvas…
..and wanting to force nature to say things, making trees twist and rocks frown, as Gustave Doré does, or even painting it like Leornardo da Vinci, that’s literature too. There’s logic of colour, damn it all! The painter owes allegiance to that alone. Never to the logic of the brain; if he abandons himself to that logic, he’s lost.. ..Painting is first and foremost an optical affair. The stuff of our art is there, in what our eyes are thinking.. ..If you respect nature, it will always unravel its meaning for you.
Yes, yes, a formula that's a straitjacket.. ..not for me! All the same, he tries in vain, does Jean-Dominique [Ingres], to wring your heart with his glossy finish! I said this to Vollard, to shock him, he is very powerful! Nevertheless he [Ingres, French classicist painter] is a damned good man.. ..The most modern of the moderns. Do you know why I take my hat off to him? Because he forced his fantastic draughtsmanship down the throats of the idiots who now claim to understand it. But here there are only two: Delacroix and Courbet. The rest are scoundrels.
I had the company of monsieur Gibert. Such people see clearly, but they have the teacher’s eye. As the train was taking us past Alexis’ place a staggering subject for a picture came into view towards the east: St-Victoire (later Cezanne made series of paintings of Mont St. Victoire and the crags above Beaurecueil. I said 'What a splendid subject'; he replied, 'The lines are too symmetrical'. Referring to 'L’Assommoir' (a novel of Emile Zola) about which, incidentally, he was the first person to speak to me, he said some very sound things, and praised it, but always from the point of view of technique.
Treat nature in terms of the cylinder, the sphere, and the cone, the whole put into perspective so that each side of an object, or of a plane, leads towards a central point. Lines parallel to the horizon give breadth, whether a sections of nature, or, if you prefer, of the spectacle which Pater omnipotens aeterne Deus unfolds before your eyes. Lines perpendicular to this horizon give depth.. ..Everything I am telling you (Joachim Gasquet) about - the sphere, the cone, cylinder, concave shadow – on mornings when I’m tired these notions of mine get me going, they stimulate me, I soon forget them once I start using my eyes.
Allow me to repeat what I said when you were here: deal with nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere and the cone, all placed in perspective, so that each side of an object or a plane is directed towards a central point. Lines parallel to the horizon give breadth, a section of nature, or if you prefer, of the spectacle spread before our eyes by the 'Pater Omnipotens Aeterne Deus'. Lines perpendicular to that horizon give depth. But for us men, nature has more depth than surface, hence the need to introduce in our vibrations of light, represented by reds and yellows, enough blue tints to give a feeling of air.
Listen, monsieur Vollard, I worked a lot out of doors at Estaque. Except for that there was no other event of importance in my life during the years 1870-71. I divided my time between the field and the studio.. ..Zola closed his letter by urging me to come back to Paris too (in 1872 Cezanne went back to Paris).. ..but all the same, something told me to go back to Paris. It was too long since I had seen the Louvre. But understand, Monsieur Vollard, I was working at that time on a landscape which was not going well. So I stayed at Aix (Aix en Provence) a little while longer to study on my canvas.
This will be my picture, the one I shall leave behind.. ..But the center? Where is the center? I can’t find the center.. ..Tell me, what shall I group it all around? Ah, Poussin's arabesque! He knew all about that. In the London 'Bacchanal', in the Louvre 'Flora' (both are paintings of Poussin, admired by Cézanne), where does the line of the figures and the landscape begin, where does it finish.. ..It’s all one. There is no center. Personally I would like something like a hole, a ray of light, an invisible sun to keep an eye on my figures, to bathe them, care them, intensify them.. ..in the middle (remark on one of his paintings 'The Bathers')
…This is what happens, unquestionably – I am positive: an optical sensation is produced in our visual organ, which leads us classify as light, half-tone or quarter-tone, the planes represented by sensations of color. (Thus the light does not exist for the painter). As long as, inevitably, one proceeds from black to white, the former of these abstractions being a kind of point of rest both for eye and brain, we flounder about, we cannot achieve self-mastery, get possession of ourselves. During this period (I tend to repeat myself, inevitably) we turn to the admirable works (of the five great Venetian painters as Titian and Tintoretto) handed down to us through the ages, in which we find comfort and support...
Everything we look at disperses and vanishes. doesn't it? Nature is always the same, and yet its appearance is always changing.. .. Painting must give us the flavour of nature’s eternity. Everything, you understand. So I join together nature’s straying hands.. ..From all sides, here there and everywhere, I select colours, tones and shades; I set them down, I bring them together.. ..They make lines, they become objects – rocks, trees – without my thinking about them.. ..But if there is the slightest distraction, the slightest hitch, above all if I interpret too much one day, if I’m carried away today by a theory which contradicts yesterday’s, if I think while I’m painting, if I meddle, then woosh!, everything goes to pieces.
A builder. A rough and ready plasterer. A colour grinder. He Courbet is like a Roman bricklayer. And yet he's another true painter. There's no one in this century that surpasses him. Even though he rolls up his sleeves, plugs up his ears, demolishes columns, * his workmanship is classical!.. ..His view was always compositional. His vision remained traditional. Like his palette-knife, he used it only out of doors. He was sophisticated and brought his work to a high finish.. ..His great contribution is the poetic introduction of nature - the smell of damp leaves, mossy forest cuttings - into nineteenth century painting; the murmur of rain, woodlands shadows, sunlight moving under trees. The sea. And snow, he painted snow like no one else!
In that Renaissance (Cellini, Tintoretto, Titian..) there was an explosion of unique truthfulness, a love of painting and form.. ..Then come the Jesuits and everything is formal; everything has to be taught and learned. It required a revolution for nature to be rediscovered; for Delacroix to paint his beach at Etratat, Corot his roman rubble, Courbet his forest scenes and his waves. And how miserable slow that revolution was, how many stages it had to go through!.. ..These artists had not yet discovered that nature has more to do with depth than with surfaces. I can tell you, you can do things to the surface.. ..but by going deep you automatically go to the truth. You feel a healthy need to be truthful. You’d rather strip your canvas right down than invent or imagine a detail. You want to know.
The point to be made clear is that, whatever may be our temperament, or our power in the presence of nature, we have to render what we actually see, forgetting everything that appeared before our own time. Which, I think, should enable the artist to express his personality to the full, be it large or small. Now that I am an old man, about seventy, the sensations of colour which produce light give rise to abstractions that prevent me from covering my canvas, and from trying to define the outlines of objects when their points of contact are tenuous and delicate; with the result that my image or picture is incomplete. For another thing, the planes become confused, superimposed; hence Neo-Impressionism, where everything is outlined in black, an error which must be uncompromisingly rejected. And nature, if consulted, shows us how to achieve this aim.
Colour is the place where our brain and the universe meet. That’s why colour appears so entirely dramatic, to true painters. Look at Sainte-Victoire there (the hill Cézanne painted frequently) How it soars, how imperiously it thirsts for the sun!. ..For a long time I was quite unable to paint Sainte-Victoire; I had no idea to go about it because, like others who just look at it, I imagined the shadow to be concave, whereas in fact it’s convex, it disperses outward from the center. Instead of accumulating, it evaporates, becomes fluid, bluish, participating in the movements of the surrounding air. Just as over there to the right, om the Pilon du Roi, you can see the contrary effect, the brightness gently rocking to and fro, moist and shimmering. That's the sea.. ..That's one needs to depict. What one needs to know. That's the bath of experience, so to speak...