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CÉZANNE by Alex Danchev

CÉZANNE

A Life

By Alex Danchev

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-307-37707-4
Publisher: Pantheon

A formidable biography of the Father of Modern Art bound for the annals of academia.

Danchev (International Relations/Univ. of Nottingham; On Art and War and Terror, 2009, etc.) has researched every facet and nuance of Paul Cézanne’s life (1839–1906). His comfortable childhood in Provence, his years in Paris, where he was influenced by the Impressionists, and his dependence on the allowance from his father created the artist some suggested was “not all there.” There is a wealth of information in the correspondence between the artist and his childhood friend, Émile Zola, in which they parodied Virgil, joked in Latin and discussed Stendhal. Zola knew that Cézanne’s art was a corner of nature seen through his own curious temmpérammennte. The artist didn’t paint things; he painted the effect they had on him. He saw colors as he read a book or looked at a person, understood the inner life of an object and let his brain rework that object, sometimes illuminating it, sometimes distorting it. Danchev rightly subscribes to the theory that understanding the man is important to understanding his work, and he attempts to parse Cézanne’s psyche, digging into the background of nearly every author he discussed in his letters, quoting every writer who based a character on the man. Cézanne’s work will influence artists and confuse patrons for decades to come, especially those who have the patience to study Danchev’s comprehensive, occasionally ponderous tome.

A fairly impressive achievement of a Sisyphean task—definitely a book to keep in your library.