|Paul Cezanne, Card Players, Musee d'Orsay, Paris|
By Charles Kessler
Just a quick word on two superb shows I was lucky to see just before leaving for vacation: "Cezanne's Card Players" (Metropolitan Museum) and "Picasso: Guitars 1912–1914" (Museum of Modern Art).
The radical change between Cezanne’s paintings and Cubism was not Cubism's greater abstraction, it was the change in the relationship between art and viewer. Cezanne’s paintings of card players, as innovative as they were, remain traditional easel paintings in that they are self-contained, discrete worlds. We are allowed to look at this world, to experience the resonant color and dynamic composition and brushwork, but it all takes place in a separate space from our own. The card players themselves typify this phenomenon: the men don’t interact with us or even with each other but rather exist in their own separate worlds.
Picasso broke away from traditional easel painting beginning with Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, and the show “Picasso: Guitars 1912–1914,” makes the change explicit.
A blow-up of a photo of Picasso’s studio, a photo mural that aptly serves as an introduction to the show, best serves to illustrate this change. It shows a real guitar hung in front of a large Cubist painting of a figure whose arms and hands are cut-out pieces of paper attached to the guitar as if playing it. And in front of it all is a real table with a real still life ( a bottle, cup, newspaper, pipe, etc.).
We don’t experience the art in this show as an imaginary world removed from ours -- rather the art has the presence and impact of real things in our world. It inhabits the viewer’s space, and the viewer becomes an active participant. This was Picasso’s great breakthrough and his revolutionary contribution to the art of the twentieth century.
|Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973), Photographic composition with Construction with Guitar Player and Violin. Paris, on or after January 25 and before March 10, 1913|
Gelatin silver print, 4 5/8 x 3 7/16" Private collection