Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cezanne: That Pedestal

This drawing happened the wrong way round. I was looking at a Cézanne still life and scribbled this diagram of the composition onto the back of an envelope. A few weeks later the diagram, lying on the desk, floated into consciousness. And all of a sudden, there it was: the reason for Cézanne‘s off-centre pedestal. It had to be off-centre or else he’d have had to repaint the fruit entirely, moving the main weight to the right. Instead he moved the pedestal to the left, under the centre of gravity. This was a kind of eureka moment for me, and I pass it on as a Christmas present to my (rare and much appreciated) readers.

Much has been written about Cézanne‘s composition, which somehow works in spite of oddities like this. Or rather, this way of looking at it helps to explain why his composition works so well. In this case, I'm proposing that the off-centre pedestal was not random or arbitrary, and that it was not a vague device “to strengthen the composition”; and further, that Cézanne was not consciously inventing a revolutionary school of painting. Rather, I'm saying that he moved the pedestal because everything on earth is subject to the law of gravity, and it suited his pictorial purpose better to move the pedestal rather than to move the fruit.

This completes the thought about Cézanne‘s pedestal which was originally mentioned in a discussion about the artist's intention.

(Edited Jan 10, 2007 -- rephrased and cut but the meaning not changed)

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2 comments:

will hauff said...

You are one of the few people who approach Cezanne in the correct way. If you read enough of his biographies you see that Cezanne, while obviously very intelligent, was not an intellectual. His artistic theories are either simple "cubes, cylinders" etc. or vague and probably nonsensical. He was a painter and a craftsman and he discovered as he went along. People who write about him are too smart for their own good and usually never had to paint anything except a wall. He painted a picture until it looked good to him and then, hopefully, he stopped and started another. He had "instinct" which is more than can be said of those who write books about him.

Mary said...

Thank you very very much for that comment, belatedly.