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Title

: Purchase of Cézanne Lithograph

Author

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Date

1940

Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Outstanding among recent additions to the print collection is an example of one of Cézanne’s rare experiments in the field of graphic arts. This is a color lithograph of a Landscape with Bathers, now on view in the Print Gallery. Because it is the first example of Cézanne’s work to be obtained by the Art Institute, the purchase of this lithograph is of unusual interest. During his long life Cézanne executed but six prints, all of them important in any consideration of his work as a painter.The lithograph in the Institute’s collection, numbered 1157 in the Venturi catalogue of Cézanne’s work, is a landscape in which four figures appear in the foreground of a mountainous landscape. The general tone of the print is greenish-yellow and greenish-blue, with some blue shadows in the bodies of the bathers and in the mountains in the background. Some examples exist in black and one, pulled in black, was later colored in water color by the artist. It possesses, as a result, greater freshness and an even greater sense of breadth and freedom than the color lithographs. It comes closer, also, to the feeling of the painting of The Bathers (Venturi 276), with which this lithograph is directly associated. Cézanne made the print to clarify his method of composition during the years 1875-1876, when his great painting of The Bathers, now in the Barnes Foundation, was executed.That he did so is a circumstance for which those who find Cézanne’s method obscure may be thankful. The composition of the painting, disclosed in the skeleton form of this lithograph, becomes clearly legible and shows how Cézanne integrated form and color, and distorted natural elements to create a convincing appearance of reality. It is this slight but deliberate distortion in Cézanne’s work that contributes to the harmonious fitting together of the separate elements in his landscapes. In this lithograph, for example, if one looks exclusively and long and blindly at the figures of the bathers, he will end by carping at what he will call faulty anatomy. If, on the other hand, he looks at the figures as part of a great and spacious plan, they will fall into their proper place in the landscape and become a noble and integral part of the great fact of nature. They become real, moreover, and give one suddenly a tremendous sense of the monumental truth of Cézanne’s conception of man and nature.Like Poussin, Cézanne was an architectural artist, seeing things in their formal relation to each other, but unlike Poussin, his compositions, even when executed to a most exact architectural plan, do not lose touch with the fundamental vitality of the scene he is portraying. Cézanne was capable, in other words, of spiritual as well as intellectual communion with his subject. Herein he improved on Poussin’s architectural method, using it but giving it new meaning. He expressed his own conception of nature in the following words: “Everything we see is dispersed and disappears. Nature is always the same, but nothing remains of it, nothing of what we see. Our art should give to nature the thrill of continuance with the appearance of all its changes. It should enable us to feel nature as eternal.”In observing Cézanne’s work one feels that he has succeeded in enabling one to feel nature as eternal. One realizes, gradually, that he did this because he did not copy what he happened to be looking at, but regarded every object before him as a part of the ever-changing scheme of nature and gave it its proper and relative place in that scheme.Referenced Work of Art
  1. The Bathers. Color lithograph by Paul Cézanne
    French, 1839-1906. Dunwoody Fund
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Source: "Purchase of Cézanne Lithograph," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 29, no. 32 (December, 1940): 162-163.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009