Like many artists I have always been inspired by Cezanne. I love his bold colours and the way he used his brush to convey movement. For me, Cezanne has always stood for vibrant still life compositions and landscapes.
Seeing the current exhibition at the Tate Modern in London has broadened my horizon. The Tate currently shows 80 of Cezanne’s paintings from all over the world, some of his original artist materials and the reactions of other creatives and gives a historical context for his development as a painter over the decades.
I have found it helpful to go into the exhibition several times, each time focussing on different aspects. The galleries with his paintings are usually very crowded, which makes it difficult to take everything in. On one visit, I managed to get hold of the free audio guide to the exhibition, which provided interesting background information and contemporary views on some of his paintings.
My realistic oil painting course is currently focussed on still life compositions, so it is really interesting to look at Cezanne’s approach. He never seemed to get bored painting apples and everyday objects in all kinds of combinations. His perspective often looks skewed, with the picture plane flattened. Neither does he seem to pay attention to the interplay of light and shadows, so some of his objects lack a sense of solidity. Yet it does not matter. The first thing you notice are the colours. I especially loved the compositions where Cezanne juxtaposed greyish blues with red and yellow. Cezanne’ still lifes are not still, but full of movement and life.
It was also interesting to discover how Cezanne worked in watercolour. Those paintings look more delicate and translucent, with graphite marks adding individuality and movement.
I was also interested in how Cezanne used thinned oils to sketch. His canvases had a lot of room to breathe. He knew exactly what details to focus on to capture a scene.
It was also interesting to look at one of his sketchbooks. The book contained accomplished people studies, but also scribbles. It was touching to see that he allowed his son to doodle in his sketchbook. It gave a glimpse of Cezanne as a father.
NB The show runs until 12th March. However, it is often already sold out for “pay as you go” visitors, who are allocated specific time slots. A way around this is to become a Tate member, as members can go into the exhibition whenever and how often they like...