The Father of Modern ArtIt is the dream of many a weekend painter, struggling to find spare time to master his or her art, to suddenly come into great inherited wealth with the death of a rich relative. This history of art is indebted to one such rich relative for dying and leaving his son a sizeable fortune, permitting that struggling artist the freedom to forever thumb his nose at the rest of society, and even his peers, in order to pursue, single-mindedly, artistic truths that have since afforded him the moniker, "The Father of Modern Art." In 1886, the father of Paul CÚzanne died and, in his will, left his wayward son money enough to live comfortably for the rest of his life. The son, something of an social oddball anyway, left the stress and strain of the Paris art scene and moved to the south of France, to his hometown, Aix-en-Provence (pronounced Exxon Pro-Vonce) where he built himself a studio with a large window facing his favourite view, Mont Sainte-Victoire (pronounced MON Sain Vic-TWOIR), which he painted endlessly, one might even say obsessively.
Born in 1839, CÚzanne was 47 when he cut the bonds between himself and the struggles of the past in order to devote himself completely to the study of the relationship between art and nature. Gone were his rapscallion days of shocking the snobbish jurors of the Salon with his brazenly crude paintings and equally crude appearance and manners. Many of his early works were frankly erotic and, except for their almost brutal brushwork might even seem shocking to us today. In his mature years, with wife and son, he chose the heavily wooded environs near his hometown and especially the view out his studio window as the venues for, as he put it, "...the concrete study of nature."
Though his early landscapes were heavily influenced by his mentor, Camille Pissarro, he always considered Impressionism to be somewhat light-headed. His most famous quote, "I want to make of Impressionism something solid and durable, like the art in museums," is evidence of the fact that to him the shapes and forms of nature could be rendered in paint without being imitative of nature. His emphasis was on the geometry, design, and colour of nature juxtaposed with those same traits in paint on canvas. Like the Impressionists, he was strongly conscious of the painted surface, but refused to be bound by the demands of reality. While the Impressionists rendered reality to canvas filtered only through their eyes, CÚzanne insisted it also pass through his brain before ending up as vehicle, binder, and pigment on canvas.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
12 July 1998