Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Bite 7: Paul Cézanne - Mt. St. Victoire, 1902-04

Mount Saint Victoire, 1902-04, oil on canvas, 70 x 90 cm
That Cézanne's approach to the landscape has come to appear somewhat 'staid' by today's standards is but a testament to the significant impact which his early 20th century work came to have on the story of art, paving the way for Fauvism and Cubism.

This, one of over 60 paintings of Mount Saint Victoire, represents an obsession. An obsession both with a place - in Provence, near his home - and with discovering a new understanding of the pictorial object. The result is nothing less than a revolution in seeing.

Nothing here exists in isolation, a technique mirroring his understanding of nature. Cézanne uses blocks of colour instead of line, building up the surface, allowing each dab of paint to contribute to the whole in its own way, the combination more than the sum of its parts.

Integral to this revolutionary way of seeing is the understanding of the viewer as complicit in the looking, and thus able to bring a cohesiveness to the scene, allowing the work to remain true to nature while relatively abstract. Cézanne expects us to do some of the work. He invites us into his creative process. We see his indecision. To view this painting is not to see the mountain in one place at one time, but rather to see the plethora of possibilities which Cézanne witnessed in conceiving the work, standing before his beloved mountain.