Monday, 2 December 2013

L’Œuvre: Zola’s novel and Paul Cézanne

“Today our sight is a little weary, burdened by the memory of a thousand images….We no longer see nature we see pictures over and over again.”
Cézanne  1902.

Illustration: Portrait of Frédéric Bazille Painting The Heron with Wings Unfurled Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1867

The novel : Wikipedia page

Potted Zola
Born 1840, son of Italian engineer living in Paris
Moved aged 3 to Aix en Provence. Childhood friend of Cezanne.
In 1847 family falls on hard times after father’s death. By 1858 Zola is back in Paris with a job as a clerk.
First novel published 1867: Therese Raquin
First best seller: L’Assoimoir, 1877.
Biggest public controversy: J’Accuse, Zola intervenes in Dreyfus affair.
'The truth is on the march and nothing can stop it.'
Died 1902 of carbon monoxide poisoning when his chimney became blocked.

The Masterpiece
French title: L’Œuvre. Sometimes translated as “His Masterpiece.”
Published in 1886. Initially instalments in Le Gil Blas starting December 1885.
Concerns the artist “Claude Lantier” his personal and career struggles.
Part of the Rougon-Macquart series of novels. Originally  planned as a series of 10 novels with the art-world novel as number 9, this was in fact number 14 of (eventually) 20.
Zola the art critic
Zola was keen on the term “Naturalism” as a description of his own project.
As an art critic he had used the word from 1868 onwards to describe the Impressionists’ work. Previously he had labelled them “Realist”.

Vestnik Europy
Zola’s art criticism ceases in 1868 as editors did not appreciate his enthusiasms. He starts writing about painting again in 1875 when Turgenev finds him column space with the St Petersburg monthly European Herald (Vestnik Europy)
Russian readers were treated to a critique of the Second Impressionist show 1876 in which Zola found fault with both Caillebotte and Degas. He praises Morisot, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley.
He calls “for one or more painters sufficiently talented to bolster the new artistic formula with master-pieces.”

Paul Cézanne

Born Aix en Provence, Jan 19th 1839. Son of a wealthy banker
Age 20 went to law school but kept up drawing lessons.
Abandoned legal studies to become an artist. An act of rebellion which his father would later support.
Originally mentored by Pissarro
Work in 1863 Salon des Refuses. Then rejected annually 1864-69.
Antoine Guillemet finally secured one successful Salon submission for Cezanne: 1882 showing of his 1866 portrait of his father.

1874 and 77 he showed with the Impressionists.
Death of father in 1886 means Cezanne has his own fortune.
Rarely showed work between then and 1895 when the art dealer Vollard began to support him.

Paul Cézanne


The Letters of Paul Cézanne, Alex Danchev  Thames and Hudson 2013

Impressionism: Origins, Practice, Reception (World of Art) Belinda Thomson, Thames and Hudson, 2000

Impressionism: Beneath the Surface (Perspectives) Paul Smith Prentice Hall 1995

 “..the painter must devote himself entirely to the study of nature and try to produce pictures which are an instruction. Talks on art are almost useless.”
Cézanne to Bernard, 1904.

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