Cezanne at the Courtauld

Somehow I’d kind of forgotten about Cezanne until I went to the Courtauld on Monday (tip: free before 2pm on Mondays). The Cezannes were familiar to me, since I studied there (briefly, ten years ago) but somehow Cezanne seems so refreshingly new every time you look at those fresh greens and blues. Apart from the Montaigne Sainte Victoire, which I find strangely bleak. Anyway, this exhibition has letters from Cezanne talking about his art, how he works, and so on, and the collection of his works – paintings and drawings – alongside his words is both revealing and appealing.
Lac D’Annecy is wonderful – somehow Gothic and geometric, representative and realistic simultaneously. The notice adds that this view from the French border of Switzerland was painted by “young lady travellers”, but Cezanne turns it into something quite different, and far removed from the delicate watercolours of a nineteenth-century young lady’s album. For me this was the central piece of the exhibition (others would certainly disagree!) but what he painted was, as he said, “a harmony parallel to nature”. I like the musical analogy; it isn’t nature, but it’s in harmony with it. Surely that’s what art should be – after all, not only is it not the real thing, it both can’t be and shouldn’t be. This painting is Cezanne’s own idiosyncratic take on nature, and a harmony is exactly what it is.

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