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Collections & Critiques

By Jack Wilner

Duncan Phillips, critic and collector, once said of Cezanne that "there is no illusion of life in his work, but a plastic equivalent for it which has a life of its won." Now this statement, though not applicable to all of Cezanne's work, is a simple, yet comprehensive summary of a very important aspect of the artist's style. And if we spend a few moments studying the three Cezanne paintings which are now being shown in Fogg Museum, we can begin to see the truth embodied in Mr. Phillips statement. Cezanne manages to create something besides the object which he is representing; and that "something" which he creates is the basis of his painting. Take the still-life piece in which we find some fruit and a napkin lying on a table. Now the apples possess. To go further, we may say that Cezanne's painting of an object is, in reality, a presentation of that object's essential characteristics; the object itself, as something which actually exists, is lost; what we find on the canvas is the form, or definition expressed through the medium of paint.

The two remaining paintings by Cezanne which can be found in the museum are landscapes containing that rather full-bodied cubistic tendency which is typical of the artist. Rolling hills, solid mountain, and a general structure based upon gradually receding planes, comprise the basic elements of the pieces. It is difficult to say, as many do, that Cezanne is a painter who appeals primarily to the intellect. Despite the fact that his style is one the foundation of which rests in a mental concept of his subject, his feeling for shape and his comprehensive power of suggesting texture and quality, serve to strengthen and support my belief in his capacity for influencing the senses. Like most great painters, Cezanne succeeds in striking a just balance between the sense and the intellect.

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