Saturday, November 8, 2014

We live in a rainbow of chaos

Mont Sainte-Victoire, 1904-1906
Last week we visited the High Museum for Cézanne and the Modern. The exhibition, loaned from the (Henry and Rose) Pearlman Collection will be featured at the High from October 25th through January 11th. The assemblage focuses on European Modern art and is the first tour of the Pearlman Collection since the 1970s.

Cézanne and the Modern
It was a delight to walk through the legacy of Cézanne, Degas, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Sisley, and Manet.

One aspect of this exhibit that I loved was that you got to see examples of work from the renowned Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Pissarro that are atypical of what they are known for. Camille Pissarro (my Dad's favorite!) had two still-lifes on display. Van Gogh had a stage coach, unsigned, at the beginning of the exhibition that was said to be inspired by boats painted by Monet. However it was the late-career watercolors by Cézanne that blew me away.

House in Provence, 1890-1894.
I was not familiar with any of his watercolors prior to this exhibit. Having worked with watercolors before, I know how temperamental they can be; how difficult it can be to draw with the paint and control the paint to communicate forms. The watercolor section of the exhibit featured mostly landscape watercolors with the exception of one still life of fruits and wine (pictured below).

That all said, there are so many things I love about these watercolors. Cézanne was able to produce paintings that were all of bright, bold, and soft. He heavily emphasized white space and made it an active part of the compositions. I think the reliance on white space was a strategic way of communicating light, a hearkening back to the the influence of Impressionism. In House in Provence (above), Cézanne used the white space to communicate the primary subjects and used the watercolors as the means of outlining those forms and making them pop.

You can also see how he layers swabs of colors to create shadows and texture; his broken brushstrokes give a breathy, atmospheric effect. Coupled with the softness of the watercolor medium, the paintings look as if you could just breathe them all in like vapor. Refreshing, indeed!

"Shadow is a colour as light is, but less brilliant; light and shadow are only the relation of two tones." - Paul Cézanne 

I ended up taking home a print of Alfred Sisley's River View, 1889. You could see where the canvas had begun to crack over the years in the same path his brushstrokes would have taken. It made his presence feel real, like you could see his process. Not only that, but I loved the thick, energetic application of paint and the thoughtful mixing of colors (and temperatures) throughout the canvas. Detail view below (right)...can you see the cracks?

This was a great exhibit. This was a perfect afternoon with my family, experiencing wonderful art. People-watching at these exhibits is always fun as well and for this one, it was a joy to see big and small, young and old, all caught up in the allure of art.

"When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art." - Paul Cézanne 

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