Last week I went to Philadelphia to see The World Is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne at the Barnes Foundation (until September 22nd). Unfortunately, the Barnes website reproduces only one of the works in the exhibition (and it's not even captioned), and they don't allow photography. I did, however, manage to find a few good reproductions online, like this one:
|Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Apples and Pears, 1891-92, oil on canvas, 17 ⅝ x 23 ⅛ inches.|
Except for Cézanne's early dark, heavily impasto paintings, I don’t see his work as solid, heavy and immobile, the way they're usually described. Just the opposite. I experience them as unstable, weightless volumes of elusive, colored light. (I know about Cézanne's famous quote: "I want to make of impressionism something solid and lasting like the art in the museums” from Paul Cézanne, Letters, edited by John Rewald, 1984 – I don’t care.)
|Paul Cézanne, Pitcher and Plate with Pears, 1895-98 (Nancy Whyte Fine Arts, Inc.).|
That’s also how the phenomenon of simultaneous color effects operates – the eye seeks the complement of a color, and if it’s not there, it will hallucinate it. The result is more vibrant and elusive color.
|From Josef Albers, The Interaction of Color|
That's the trick with this Jasper Johns's flag painting too. If you stare at the white dot in the middle for about a minute, then look at a white wall, you'll see the compliment – a red, white and blue flag.
I experienced simultaneous effect very clearly with Paul Cézanne’s Young Woman at a Table, 1885-1900, at the Getty Museum.
|Paul Cézanne, Young Woman at a Table, 1885-1900, oil on canvas, 38 ⅛ x 28 ⅞ inches (Getty Museum).|
|Detail, Paul Cézanne, Young Italian Woman at a Table, 1885-90.|
|Paul Cézanne, The Kitchen Table, 1888-90 oil on canvas 65 x 81 cm. (Musée d'Orsay, Paris).|
I said they were nit picks!
If you're interested in Cézanne (and there's no hope for you if you're not), Philadelphia is one of the best places in the world to see his work. There are 23 paintings in this exhibition and 70 more (not a typo) on view in the Barnes's permanent collection; PLUS the nearby Philadelphia Museum of Art has many more Cézanne paintings including his enormous (for Cézanne, that is – about 7' x 8') Large Bathers, 1906.
|Paul Cézanne, The Large Bathers, 1900-06, oil on canvas, 82 7/8 x 98 3/4 inches (Philadelphia Museum of Art).|