HumanitiesWeb.org - Paul Cézanne - The father of modern painting [Quotations]
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Paul Cézanne
Quotations



"...one says more and perhaps better things about painting when facing the motif than when discussing purely speculative theories -- in which as often as not one loses oneself."
- letter to Charles Camoin, 28 January 1902

"There are two things in the painter: the eye and the mind. Each of them should aid the other."
 
"But you know all pictures painted inside, in the studio, will never be as good as those done outside. When out-of-door scenes are represented, the contrasts between the figures and the ground is astounding and the landscape is magnificent. I see some superb things and I shall have to make up my mind only to do things out-of-doors."
- letter to Emile Zola, 19 October 1866
 
"All my life I have worked to be able to earn my living, but I thought that one could do good painting without attracting attention to one's private life. Certainly, an artist wishes to raise himself intellectually as much as possible, but the man must remain obscure. The pleasure must be found in the work."
- letter to Joachim Gasquet, 30 April 1896
 
"...one says more and perhaps better things about painting when facing the motif than when discussing purely speculative theories -- in which as often as not one loses oneself."
- letter to Charles Camoin, 28 January 1902
 
"Everything, especially in art, is theory developed and applied in contact with nature."
- letter to Charles Camoin, 22 February 1903
 
"The artist must scorn all judgment that is not based on an intelligent observation of character. He must beware of the literary spirit which so often causes the painter to deviate from his true path -- the concrete study of nature -- to lose himself too long in intangible speculation. The Louvre is a good book to consult but it must be only an intermediary. The real and immense study to be undertaken is the manifold picture of nature."
- letter to Emile Bernard, 12 May 1904
 
"But I must always come back to this: painters must devote themselves entirely to the study of nature and try to produce pictures which will be an education. Talking about art is almost useless. The work which brings about some progress in one's own craft is sufficient compensation for not being understood by imbeciles."
- letter to to Emile Bernard, 26 May 1904
 
"Don't be an art critic, but paint, there lies salvation."
- letter to Emile Bernard, 25 July 1904
 
"The Louvre is the book in which we learn to read. We must not, however, be satisfied with retaining the beautiful formulas of our illustrious predecessors. Let us go forth to study beautiful nature, let us try to free our minds from them, let us strive to express ourselves according to our personal temperment. Time and reflection, moreover, modify little by little our vision, and at last comprehension comes to us."
- letter to Emile Bernard, 1905
 
"The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution."
 
"We live in a rainbow of chaos. "
 
"Art is a harmony, parallel with the harmony of nature."
 
"Painting is not only to copy the object, it is to sieze a harmony between numerous relations."
 
"I cannot attain the intensity that is unfolded before my eyes. "
 
"There must not be a single link too loose, not a crevice through which may escape the emotion, the light, the truth."
 
"What follows Impressionism does not count."
 
"The only way to get on is to study nature. The eye is educated by contact with nature. It becomes concentric by continually looking and working...in an apple, an orange, a ball, a head, there is a culminating point, and in spite of the terrible effect of light and shadow, of coloring sensations, this point is always the one nearest to our eye. The edges of objects receed toward a center located on our horizon. With a little bit of temperament one can very much become a painter."
 
"When color is richest, form is most complete. The secret of drawing and modelling lies in contrasts and relations of tones."
 
"The most important thing in a picture is to find the right distance. Color must express all the breaks in depth. It is in this that the true talent of an artist is seen."
 
"Through drawing and color, the artist clearly conveys his feelings, his perceptions. He cannot be too scrupulous, too sincere or too humble before nature. But to some extent he must have mastery of his mode, and above all, of his means of expression. He must penetrate what he sees before him, and strive to express it in the most logical way possible."
 
"What you must strive to attain is a good method of construction."
 
"If I think while painting, everything is gone."
 
"I advance all of my canvas at one time. While hand is performing one operation the eye is already looking for the next step."
 
"The realization of my sensations is always very difficult. I cannot attain the intensity that is unfolded before my senses."
 
"The knowledge of the means of expressing emotion is only to be acquired through very long experience."
 
"Nature is made up of a series of curves and squares, which interlace."
 
"The goal of art is the human face."
 
"They like having their portraits painted. It's as though they sought your forgiveness for becoming discolored. Their essence is emitted with their perfume. They come to you in all their odors, speaking to you of the fields they've left behind, of the rain that's nourished them, of the dawns they've witnessed. In defining with fleshy touches the skin of a beautiful peach or the melancholy of an old apple, I glimpse in the reflections that they exchange the same tepid shadow of renunciation, the same love of the sun, the same recollection of dew, a fresheness."
 
"This is the great thing: to free oneself of the school-of all schools."
 
"I will tell you that I have devoted myself to numerous studies which have only given me negative results and, fearing the criticisms that are all too justified, I had resolved to work in silence until the day I felt I was capable of theoretically defending the results of my experiments."
 
"It took me forty years to find out that painting is not sculpture."
 
"To paint is not to copy the object slavishly, it is to grasp a harmony among many relationships."
 
"When [paintings] are done right, harmony appears by itself. The more numerous and varied they are, the more the effect is obtained and agreeable to the eye."
 
"Everything we see disperses and vanishes, doesn’t it? Nature is always the same, but nothing remains of it, of what we see. Our art has to inspire a feeling of permanence while still showing the elements of all its changes. It has to make us sense it as eternal. "
 
"Here on the edge of the river, the motifs are very plentiful, the same subject seen from a different angle gives a subject for study of the highest interest and so varied that I think I could be occupied for months without changing my place, simply bending a little more to the right or left. "
- to his son
 
"I wish to die painting. "
 
"An optical impression is produced on our organs of sight which makes us classify as light, half-tone or quartertone, the surfaces represented by colour sensations. So that light does not exist for the painter. "
 
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