"I will astonish Paris with an apple" Cezanne was famously quoted as saying. He apparently did astonish Paris with his apples. But every time I see his work I wonder why? Was it because he told everyone he would and so everyone believed him? I don't know. I'm tired of hearing people get all choked up over these apples. They say Cezanne painted hundreds of apples. Well, I've painted hundreds of apples too, and I don't see in Cezanne's paintings what attracts me to keep painting apples. I have to wonder, what it is that everyone else seems to see that I don't.
In my opinion, Cezanne's apples are only about one thing - Cezanne. Look at the picture to the left. Honestly ask yourselves, does he really care about these apples or is it just brushwork? Are the apples treated differently? Personally I don't think so. I think all of these apples are treated the exact same way, and I don't get a sense that Cezanne loves the apples. I get a sense that Cezanne loves Cezanne.
A painting should never be solely about how well it was painted. So much realism is done with tracing and grids, it just sucks the life out of the work. When I paint apples, I am looking at the personalities of the apples. In the painting to the right, titled "All Sorts Of Apples" I deliberately picked different apples. It may be difficult to see, but the third apple from the right, the golden delicious, has a stripe on it. I have never seen an apple with a stripe on it and picked it up immediately like a piece of gold. My painting is about the apples.
Look at this painting to the left that everyone raves about how great it is. What is so great about it? Really? I'm asking you? The painting itself has no depth, it's flat. The perspective on the table isn't even close, the apples would roll right off of it. And the apples once again are all treated the same way. If Cezanne were to teach a class I think he could call it, "Painting Without Trying". I realize that when this was painted it was something that had really not been seen often so it's popularity comes from a sense of being different, but is that enough? Painting is the only field where the rules can go out the window and people still love it. Would you listen to a song where the musician tossed out all of the rules...nope, it would be unbearable to listen to, something like Primus I would guess, but even worse. Would you read a book where the writer tossed them out? Could you read that book? Try reading Naked Lunch and imagine it about ten times worse...How about eat at a restaurant where the cook tossed the rules out? "Hmm how about I put some raisins in the fried chicken batter and some chili powder in the rice pudding"..No huh? Fly in an airplane where the pilot said "OK, no rules today on this flight! You be scared out of your mind...One last one - would you live in a building if you knew that the architect tossed out the rules when he designed it? - "Support beams? Nah, who needs support beams...and all of the electrical outlets will be on the ceiling"...yeah, that would work. The basic rules to painting are: Learn to draw well, study values, composition, perspective, color, and learn how to mix the paint well enough so that it doesn't get muddy.
We have a tendency to like what we are told to like without every really thinking too hard about why. Sometimes I have to force myself to look at a situation with fresh eyes. Cezanne's apples do not make me cry, in fact they don't make me feel anything at all. It's just a painting where everything in it is treated the same way. If I had never seen this before and a student brought this into my class, I would tell them to pay more attention to the objects in the painting. Do a few sketches, study perspective, and try again. I don't see this as brilliant, I see it as lazy painting.
I am also aware that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to look at this painting with fresh eyes. It would be like seeing the 1931 version of Frankenstein and trying to pretend that you haven't seen a thousand versions of it since. It's difficult to do that.
I'm sure that this post is going to create some thoughts like: I'm full of myself, I compared myself to Cezanne, who am I to argue with history, and of course some comment like I wish I had his money. My point is that I am not just going to say I like or love a painting because everyone else loves it, nor am I going to copy the style because I like it, or it is popular. There are many impressionistic paintings and painters that I do love, Degas, and Monet just to name two, but I have no plans to copy their styles any time soon either.
Love your work, Clinton, and your blog is equally as compelling. It challenges us to really look at art and decide for ourselves what we think or feel or like/don't like about it. We have been conditioned to accept based on what is passed down and what we are told to believe. In reality, we are truer to ourselves if we free our thinking and our creativity.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much! I really appreciate the kind words. I also think it works the other way so next I'll be thinking about things that I like, that I have been told not to.Delete
Clinton, the thing is your looking at a period of art that was so wrapped up with being part of the avant-garde and shrouded in mystical intellectual Theory that art historians (those that talk about art) will not let go of it, no one looks at the work rationally anymore it is about celebritism and fame. As far as Cezanne and his work and style I agree that much of his work is redundant, but of those modern primitives or impressionists I think he was very authentically him, his work did not swing with fashion.ReplyDelete
All great points, especially that his work was authentically him. As much as I enjoy looking at the work technically, I also realize how important it is to have your own "voice", which he certainly had...Delete
You ought not get much flak for this posting. You are stating something we all think at some point, facing some artwork that stirs in us dubious reaction. In public we are wary of being anything but diplomatic, and I’ve heard plenty of people state ‘there is no such thing as bad art’, that’s when I want to blurt out ‘Oh YES there is’.ReplyDelete
But I’ve got no problem with Cezanne, his work is definitely his own, his style, original and not copied, his weapon of choice. I like the bold lines and color, and his compositional skill shows through, so it’s safe to bet his flattening and distortion of the space in your example painting is deliberate, the way he wanted. But even with that flatness a nice feeling of space comes through- that trumpet top and sphere in the back right have an almost orbital feeling. Sure, I would have drawn that tea cup a little less awkwardly, but that’s also because I’d fear people would think I didn’t know how to draw a teacup! Probably at his stature he didn’t have anything to prove.
In a way I’m not picky, I mainly need to see the ‘rigor of discipline’ and effort in a painting to give it some respect; I hate those works of obviously 10 minutes of slashing and dashing, with 4 paragraphs of expounding essay on the right, telling me why this work is so ‘relevant’. What I really hate about modern abstract art is what one art critic called its ‘facile quality’- meaning it looks like it’s EASY to do!
When I started painting, I met lots of preening people who would doodle around, say ‘oh, I think I made an eye!’ and be hugging themselves all day. That’s where my disdain comes in.
I’m writing on your blog more than my own lately, not a good habit.
Ha! Saying there is no such thing as bad art, is like saying there is no such thing as bad cooking...I'm with you, yes there is!
On Cezanne, I love how nicely you disagree. On guy posted a nasty comment on FB I actually had to delete. I guess that not everyone is smart enough to realize that a blog is really a forum for displaying your work and posts like these are just my way of keeping the blog interesting and hopefully entertaining in between the posts of paintings.
I looked for your Blog so I could follow it but I can't find it. Feel free to post it here so anyone who want's to can...
Whoa, thanks for pointing out my blog disconnect! I've got a gallery website now, separate from my blog, and I'm confusing all the links I stick everywhere. My blog is http://judypalermo.blogspot.com/ . Plus I fixed the link (I think)to my name above; thanks for helping a mixed- up painter.Delete
FB and blogs have helped painters' exposure, but it's good we can delete those odd nasty comments that add nothing to an intelligent dialogue.
I found you!! Thanks again for taking the time to comment!Delete
I found this post really helpful, actually. As a new painter, sometimes I look at the paintings people say are so great and I feel I must be really ignorant that I don't 'grok it'. I thing you're right: Cezanne was fabulous in his time as he did not conform and was on his own path of exploring color and design and expressing something from his own mind. I love your work BTW.ReplyDelete
Thank you! Glad you liked it!Delete
Friend, Cezanne could not carry your paint brushes. He would cry if he could see your apples.ReplyDelete
Wow, What an amazing compliment...Thank you so much!!Delete
I like both works by yourself and Cezanne. What Cezanne did isn't easy. From my understanding the Impessionist broke away from traditional painting highly detailed work on purpose. As well the cubist stayed away from linear perspective flattening out their work. Where you hang on to traditional detailed accurate depictions. I still like both.ReplyDelete