Retocar o real com o real
Paul Cézanne, Propos rapportés par Joachim Gasquet,dans Cézanne, Paris, Bernheim jeune, 1921, Repris dans Les créateurs et le sacré,par Camille Bourniquel et Jean Guichard-Meili, Cerf, 1956.
os poetas não desnaturam a natureza
Propos rapportés par Joachim Gasquet,dans Cézanne, Paris, Bernheim jeune, 1921.Repris dans Les créateurs et le sacré,par Camille Bourniquel et Jean Guichard-Meili, Cerf, 1956
Fritz Saxl; A HERITAGE OF IMAGES – A HUMANIST DREAMLAND, (1947) 2 vols. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1970.
You may ask if Titian was really the ancestor of Watteau’s works. Had Watteau any knowledge of Titian’s Bacchanal, or is it mere chance that he uses the same features in a similar setting? Is it that life and love have not much more to offer than to sit on a lawn, to talk, to adorn oneself with roses, to hear music and to dance, to watch children at play? Certainly all the motives have a different meaning in Watteau’s works. They are now separated from Andros and classical antiquity, and are transplanted to Parisian soil. But although Van Dyck is famous for his imitation of the Venetians, au fond Watteau is nearer to Titian than Van Dyck ever was, and there is in fact a wonderful drawing by him  which repeats almost exactly the one figure in the foreground of the Bacchanal . I think, therefore, that we are entitled to see in the fête galante of the eighteenth century the profane and anti-classicistic legacy of Titian’s illustration of Philostratus. We may ask: how does the story end? Was Watteau, who died so young, the last heir to the glorious Venetian tradition? Did the French Revolution kill it for good and all? The historical answer is easily given. All of you know Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe, which is certainly one of the most Important stations on our route. Manet, however, still belongs to the classical tradition,10 the revolt against which was led by Cézanne. But in Cézanne’s work the subject of the great festival in the open air plays an important part, and here we come nearer to our own time. ‘Ce sera mon tableau,’ he said, referring to one of these pictures, ‘ce que je laisserai.’11
Up to the time of his death he worked constantly on an immense canvas, twenty times abandoned, twenty times ‘lacerée, brulée, détruite, recommencée’. The result is the famous Pellerin picture, Les grandes baigneuses, which was the centre of the Cézanne exhibition in Paris in 1936 . What does the subject mean to Cézanne? Rhythm overwhelms everything in this picture; the rhythm of the trees bent over to form a Gothic arch governs also the line of the bodies. Certainly, the monochrome reproduction emphasizes this play of curves too strongly, as everyone knows who has seen an original Cézanne. There exists a much more subtle rhythm along with that of lines and shadows. It lies in the distribution of colours, which balance, modify, dissolve and unite the rhythm of forms. This magic of rhythm is so fascinating that one is apt to disregard the expressions of the single figures There are the melancholic ones sitting in the foreground, the young and gay ones running to the water in the background, the indifferent ones standing gazing, and so on.The details are not what strike the mind, they are matters of indifference. Indeed, the whole subject of a casual bathing scene with the village in the background, people brought up to live in towns trying to return to the elements of Nature, would not have been an adequate subject for a monumental picture for Titian; and yet it belongs to the end of the series of paintings which we have seen: the pictures representing Utopian life. We are sitting here uncovered, as near to Nature as we can approach. Just as Titian transformed the island of Andros into his own world, so Cézanne represents his Utopia in a French setting of 1900. But Cézanne does not require any Philostratus – ‘Il ne tolère aucune littérature‘ as a French critic says. Man and Nature are one, one rhythm runs through them. ‘Le génie serait de degager l’amitié de toutes ces choses en plein air, dans la même montée, dans Ie même désir. II y a une minute du monde qui passe. La peindre dans sa réalité! Et tout oublier pour cela.’12 These are Cézanne’s own words. Young and active, old and worn, all alike are united by 14 their membership of that universe which is created by one medium: colour. ‘Les couleurs sont la chair éclatante des idées et de Dieu.’
There is no need for the painter to stand outside his subject in order to organize it: he is himself part of it, and the deeper he allows himself to be immerse in it the better is he able to render it. ‘Je viens devant mon motif, je m’y perds…. Une tendre émotion me prend. Des racines de cette emotion monte la seve, les couIeurs … Une logique aérienne colorée remplace brusquement la sombre, la tetue geometrie. Tout s’organise, les arbres, les camps, les maisons. Je vois. Par taches.’
Cézanne does not seek to be transformed by a pagan god’s magic power. He does not seek a Fool’s Paradise – reality itself has become a miracle. The distinction between subject and object no longer exists, and in the realization of this oneness and sameness of the various manifestations of Nature, he feels himself to be a pupil of Lucretius. ‘Cette aube de nous-mêmes au-dessus du néant … je m’en sature en lisant Lucrèce.‘ He establishes harmony between reality and the eternal laws of rhythm. Freedom and rhythm should no longer be contrasted but united in a world where colour has the power to merge them. In striving after such a world Cézanne is a true humanist. It is a humanism, no longer based on the details of classical learning, yet governed by the essential principles of the classical tradi tion.