Cezanne & Beyond


IN 1907, THE FRENCH painter Paul Cezanne's posthumous retrospective astonished younger artists, accelerating the experimentation of European modernism. Cezanne (1839-1906) became for Henri Matisse "a benevolent god of painting" and, for Pablo Picasso, "my one and only master." Cezanne's inclusion in the Armory Show in New York in 1913 also offered American artists a new direction.

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"Cezanne & Beyond" examines the seismic shift provoked by this pivotal figure, examining him as form-giver, catalyst, and touchstone for artists who followed. It surveys the development of an artistic vision that anticipated Cubism and fueled a succession of artistic movements, and juxtaposes Cezanne's achievement with works by many who were inspired directly by him, showing a fluid interchange of form and ideas. It places his work in context with more recent artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Jasper Johns, and Brice Marden, who, in quite different ways, came to terms with the master of Aix-en-Provence. His profound impact on successive generations endures to the present day. The exhibition presents more than 150 works, including a large group of paintings, watercolors, and drawings by Cezanne, along with those of 18 later artists.

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"The exhibition is about the pleasures of experiencing the interaction of artistic ideas in a creative dialogue across a continuum," says Joseph J. Rishel, curator of European Painting before 1900 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "The installation juxtaposes works from the past and present, with Cezanne as the generative pivot. Rather than charting a chronology of influence, we are especially interested in examining artistic ideas in motion, extended, reformulated, and transmuted by the hands of different artists. I'd like to think that the viewer will be able to experience it in a completely nonlinear way, always circling around to Cezanne."

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All of the artists in the exhibition have acknowledged Cezanne's profound impact on their work. When Matisse donated his Cezanne painting of "Three Bathers" to the Petit Palais in 1936, he wrote: "In the 37 years I have owned this canvas, I have come to know it quite well, though not entirely, I hope; it has sustained me morally in the critical moments of my venture as an artist; I have drawn from it my faith and my perseverance...." Picasso, in his long and varied artistic career, often used Cezanne as a lever in his critical shifts, from his "Self-Portrait with Palette," through to the lyricism of "La Reve," and onto his later examination of bathing subjects both as painting and sculpture. Georges Braque, who, with Picasso, used Cezanne as his principal touchstone early on, spent time at several of Cezanne's painting locations. For him, "it was more than an influence; it was an initiation."

Piet Mondrian, who especially was drawn to the formal structure achieved by Cezanne, brings an analysis of Cezanne to an abstract conclusion, as reflected in his own words "... that beauty in art is created not by the objects of representation, but by the relationships of line and color." Fernand Leger once remarked, "Cezanne taught me the love of form and volumes.... The power of Cezanne was such that, to fred myself, I had to go to the limits of abstraction." In Russia, Liubov Popova discovered Cezanne in the Moscow collections of Ivan Morozov and Sergei Shchukin and drew from him the pleasures of geometric fragmentation that moved swiftly to pure abstraction.

In the U.S., as modernism gathered force, members of the Alfred Stieglitz circle, especially Charles Demuth and Marsden Hartley, became fascinated with Cezanne. …

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