art and the body
The ancient Greeks and the Italian Renaissance artists held the view that the human body should personify ‘perfect’ forms of balance and symmetry, culminating in equal proportions. Once such a harmony had been understood then the ideal construct of beauty in the form of the body could be achieved. The Renaissance artists were influenced by statements they read at the beginning of the third book The Planning of Temples of Marcus Vitruvius' Vitruvius on Architecture, which set out rules of the correct human proportions, stating that man's body is a model of proportion because with arms and legs extended it fits into those ‘perfect’ geometrical forms, the square and the circle. Artists of the Renaissance used this model as a basis for their whole artistic philosophy. Artists were taking an interest in the accurate representation of the human form, and because of this naturalism in art was revived (c.1450–1550). The Naturalistic movement, combined with access to Greek sources and the revival of learning, produced fundamental changes in the anatomical outlook which found their most natural and forceful expression through artists such as Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), Michelangelo (1475–1564), and Raphael (1483–1521). Da Vinci, in particular, treated the human body as an instrument of movement governed by mechanical laws — he thought even the expressions of emotions were controlled in this way. No longer during this period was the body regarded as a sinful instrument which must be hidden or as something sacred that must not be anatomically investigated. Classical ideals were returning and artists were the first heralds of the new age.
In the seventeenth century, distorted, exaggerated poses of the nudes were given the title Mannerism. Painters such as Bronzino, Giambologna, and Correggio produced highly polished and formalized nudes which all had a similar look about them. Mannerism became very popular in France during this period, partly because of its cultivation of the chic female nude in the form of the goddess and in Venus-like postures. Art historian Kenneth Clark states in The Nude (1980): ‘The goddess of mannerism is the eternal feminine of the fashion-plate.’ Mannerist art treated the body as a collection of parts, which could be enlarged and exaggerated at will. Many of the art–anatomy folios also employed this type of visual selecting of anatomical parts. In a drawing by anatomist Govard Bidloo (1649–1713), pinned-back flaps of skin revealed the organs of a female cadaver. However, when the nineteenth-century painter Gustave Courbet later made a similar painting revealing only female genitalia, isolating this part of the anatomy, it prompted a viewer to remark:
By some inconceivable forgetfulness, the artist, who copied his model from nature, had neglected to represent the feet, the legs, the thighs, the stomach, the hips, the chest, the hands, the arms, the shoulders, the neck, and the head …
Although the Mannerist body was very elegant, with its finely tapered neck, wrists, and ankles, the female shape became far removed from real life. Incorrect proportions of this type were to be challenged in the eighteenth century by the principles of the Enlightenment.
The pursuit of aesthetics for those educated in the eighteenth century did not belong to art academies and paintings alone, but was a way of life. The body increasingly became a visible and tangible medium through which artists could transmit codes of aesthetics that were also interpreted as codes of ethics. Twentieth-century writers interpreted the aesthetics of this period as being politically active in shaping individual taste, knowledge, and moral behaviour, the cultivation of which was considered important to an aesthetic lifestyle. As Eagleton points out in The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990): ‘The beautiful is just political order lived out on the body, the way it strikes the eye and stirs the heart’. Cultural ideologies harnessing scientific exactness to artistic beauty were the canons on which paintings and sculptures were produced. Like the reading of text, the reading of art also had its own language and could be deciphered and translated accordingly. In The Analysis of Beauty (1753), the artist William Hogarth centres his argument around the ‘line of beauty’, purporting that figurative art could be regulated by a specific principle which could be expressed by a particular line. The beauty of different physical types is a theme that Hogarth deals with in Chapter XI, entitled ‘Of Proportion’. Here he distinguishes between purely formal beauty and the beauty of fitness: the first is governed by the serpentine line; the second arises ‘chiefly from a fitness of some design'd purpose of use’. The pictorial distinctions made by Hogarth are an essential part of his language as an artist, making his characters and caricatures easily legible.
Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–92), a renowned artist and socialite, became the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768. Reynolds, like many of his contemporaries, was a man of the Enlightenment and believed in the harmony of nature, art, science, and medicine, each component relying upon the other. There was very little division for him between art and science. For Reynolds, beauty is not something beyond reach, but tangible and attainable. In one of his lectures to the students and dilettanti, Discourse III (1770), he states: ‘For perfect beauty in any species must combine all the characters which are beautiful’. The human body was seen by eighteenth-century artists as a tool from which to learn. The body whether real or artificial, dead or alive, took on many guises as a physical being to be scientifically explored and artistically rendered.
While life classes involving a nude female were restricted to married men, there was no shortage of ‘anatomized’ females adorning the medical folios of this period. Many of the truncated and finely engraved images show female anatomy in all shapes and sizes. The lack of open access to the life class at the Royal Academy of Arts for single men and women artists necessitated their learning anatomy from such folios; consequently, there was a growing medical interest in biological sex and sexual differences, and a growing market for publications of this kind. Anatomical folios used in the teaching of art had a scientific influence on artists in their studies. In addition to the rules of proportion as laid down by the Renaissance architect Vitruvius, classical ideals of beauty, and the slavish adherence to anatomical accuracy, artists were beginning to address new scientific theories concerning female anatomy and biology. Perhaps for the first time, a serious attempt was being made by artists and anatomists to link geometry and the biology of sex together. According to Kenneth Clark:
‘The fact that we can base our argument either way on this unexpected union of sex and biology is a proof of how deeply the concept of the nude is linked with our most elementary notions of order and design.’ (The Nude, 1980.)
The study of the nude figure and its physiology was being re-addressed not only by scientists and anatomists but also by artists. Medical inquiry into a woman's biological state began influencing art-anatomy depictions of both her inner and outer physiological structure.
The eighteenth century was culturally redesigning the body, for despite analytical, scientific, and medical mechanization of the human form, art constantly reminds us that we are more than just the sum of our parts. Art–anatomy practices increasingly became multifaceted as both artists and anatomists assimilated a new ‘look’ and design to the human figure. The shape of the body is both physiologically determined and artificially recreated. This is most noticeable during the Enlightenment, when fashionable dress, masks and masquerading, corsetry, and the wearing of beauty patches were part of everyday life. Science and art were not alone in measuring the body, for the wearing of stays and the emergence of the fashionable, measured body became part of society's image. William Hogarth's Line of Beauty, and Joshua Reynolds' call for harmony, beauty, and proportion, had one thing in common: measurement.
The female body was moulded, measured, masqueraded, and medicalized. Fashion and physique went hand in hand, and consequently anatomists noticed how the slenderness of shoes and the tightness of stays were physically altering the shape of women. Joshua Reynolds urged his students not to disguise the human form or ‘disguise nature’ by means of ‘hair-dressers, and tailors, in their various schools of deformity’ (Discourse III, 1770). Hogarth, however, encouraged females to change their physical appearance and wear the ‘line of beauty’, which became a tradename for the corset. The wearing of a corset truncated and fragmented the body, and divided it in two. It covered just enough to reveal parts of the anatomy that were decidedly ‘female’ — breasts and sexual organs. Thus, the female's anatomy was being reshaped not only by artists but by the means of the fashions that women chose. The process of sectioning, fragmenting, and splitting the female anatomy, therefore, was not peculiar to the realm of man-made art–anatomy images.
The eighteenth-century woman was constantly having something done to her: the man-midwife inspected her, the stay-maker measured her, the scientist demystified her biology, the anatomist dissected her, and finally the artist painted her. Biological and hierarchal divisions between the sexes in terms of their skeletons were explored during the twentieth century by writers such as Londa Schiebinger, whose research found that it was not until 1759 that the ‘female skeleton make her debut’ (The Mind Has No Sex, 1989). Up to this time all depictions of skeletons were of males, even those representing children and females, and it was not until the latter half of the eighteenth century that women were viewed as physiologically different from men. Anatomical understanding of the skeleton, the representation of the human figure and the disfiguring brought about by the wearing of stays had an impact on artistic development. Artists, especially those trained by anatomists at the Royal Academy of Arts, saw dissecting classes as a natural part of art education. Artists and medical men followed iconographic systems resulting in anatomic arithmetic where classical ideals were promoted by using such images as Apollo and the Venus de Medici.
Cultural iconography of the human figure usually denotes the promise of something ‘more’. It can arouse unfulfilled sexual fantasies, commodity–ownership relations or paternal feelings, or question the very existence of ‘being’ as did the images of life and death during the eighteenth century. Representations of the naked and the nude portray body images as cultural commodities. For modern writers such as John Berger, Carol Pateman, Dorinda Outram, and Simone de Beauvoir, the body (especially the female) becomes a sign and cultural symbol for external reality, both political and gendered. The ‘political culture of the body’ that Dorinda Outram speaks of can therefore be seen through images showing types of dress, posture, chosen medium (oil or otherwise), the scale of canvas, and physiology. The body image as a cultural, political, scientific, erotic, and fashionable statement is most evident through visual representation; real, allegorical or symbolic. Part of eighteenth-century understanding of the body was by means of identifying self with images of life and death. The body, in particular, provoked feelings of enquiry and curiosity of self, both external and internal.
By the nineteenth century, the nude and semi-naked female form could be seen as an ever-recurring topic, for, despite the Victorian values of prudity and chastity, the nude survived. French artists such as Ingres, Renoir, Manet, Degas, and Courbet are readily called to mind for their renderings of the body. The British artist William Etty (1787–1849) became wholly absorbed in the study of the nude, and could often be found at the life class housed in the Royal Academy of Art, making copious drawings of his model. The draped and partially-wrapped life models and classical statues located at the Royal Academy, the Government Schools, and the Slade School of Art direct the viewer's attention to the relevant parts of the body by revealing and concealing. Pictorially, the severing of head from body does not always take the form of decapitation and a fine line around the neck, dividing physical space, is sometimes enough. The pearls around the neck of a wax model draw attention to her face; likewise, the black ribbon around the neck of the woman in Edouard Manet's painting Olympia (1862–3) draws attention to her social status.
Much discussion has centred around theories of the body, especially since the late nineteenth century. Discourse surrounding the naked and the nude, Freudian psychoanalysis, the decline of beauty, and the onslaught of feminism have all helped to shape and define what art and the body are, and what they is not. Early twentieth-century artists including Henri Matisse, Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, and George Braque launched new visions of the human figure as each struggled with ideas of form and content. The fragmentation of subject matter, which became the hallmark of Cubism, meant that representations of the body were seen as small fractions of picture-planes, all positioned at irregular angles. Ideas of figurative and abstract art are thought to have been born at this time, especially in the works of Paul Cezanne, a pre-Cubist painter. After 1945, post-war Britain saw artists such as Stanley Spencer, Lucien Freud, Euan Uglow, Allen Jones, Francis Bacon, and Henry Moore extending the boundaries of figurative and abstract renderings of both the male and female body. In America during the 1950s the American Abstract Expressionists also began to reassess the impact of figurative/abstract art, leading Willem de Kooning to paint a series of ‘pink nudes’, and Pop artist Andy Warhol to make icons of leading Hollywood stars. By the 1960s and 1970s, art was undergoing another metamorphosis, and alternative conventions were being found to re-construct the body in the guise of photo-montage, body-prints, life-size sculpture, concept art, happenings, and performance art. By this time, feminist ideology, the decline of easel painting, and new forms of art were affecting the type of ‘body art’ made.
Representations of the body have survived the most rigorous tests executed by late twentieth-century artists; interestingly, not unlike in the eighteenth century, art, anatomy, and the body are once again being given centre stage.
Abichou, A. (1996). Taught by artists and trained by anatomists: Royal Academy students and art education. University of London, Institute of Education, London.
Clark, K. (1980). The nude: a study of ideal art. Penguin Books Ltd., Harmondsworth.
Eagleton, T. (1990). The ideology of the aesthetic. Blackwell, Oxford.
Nead, L. (1994). The female nude. Art, obscenity and sexuality. Routledge, London and New York.
See also body shape; female form; iconography; nudism.
The French painter Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was one of the most important figures in the development of modern painting. In particular, the evolution of cubism and abstraction was largely due to his innovations.
During the second half of the 19th century French impressionism created a dramatic break with the art of the past. In conception and appearance the style was radically new and, although it initially inspired public ridicule, it soon affected nearly every ambitious artist in western Europe. The new vision emerged during the 1870s, chiefly in the art of Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro. For each of these artists impressionism was an illusionistic style which differed from the tradition of Renaissance illusionism in its greater emphasis upon vibrant, natural color and on an immediate confrontation with the phenomena of the visible world.
As the style developed during the 1880s, however, it increasingly became characterized by paintings which were flat rather than illusionistic. In other words, the impressionists' insistence upon a direct application of pigment to canvas resulted in surfaces which declared themselves first of all as surfaces—and, consequently, in paintings which declared themselves first of all as paintings rather than as windows which looked out upon the natural world.
The tendency toward flatness persisted into the last years of the 19th century, its pervasiveness giving the impression that illusionistic space—fought for, won, and defended since the very beginning of the Renaissance—had finally been sacrificed by the medium of painting. Paul Cézanne worked within and finally emerged from this trend. As a painter, he matured slowly, his greatest works coming during the last 25 years of his life. During this period he scored a remarkable and heroic achievement: he restored to painting the space and volume that had seemingly been lost to it. But he did it in a totally unprecedented way: not by return to the illusionism of the past but by the creation of a spatial illusionism that did not violate flatness.
Cézanne was born on Jan. 19, 1839, in Aix-en-Provence. His father, Philippe Auguste, was the cofounder of a banking firm which prospered throughout the artist's life, affording him financial security that was unavailable to most of his contemporaries and eventually resulting in a large inheritance. In 1852 Cézanne entered the Collège Bourbon, where he met and became friends with Émile Zola. This friendship was decisive for both men: with youthful romanticism they envisioned successful careers in the Paris art world, Cézanne as a painter and Zola as a writer. Consequently, Cézanne began to study painting and drawing at the École des Beaux-Arts in Aix in 1856. His father opposed the pursuit of an artistic career, and in 1858 he persuaded Cézanne to enter law school at the University of Aix. Although Cézanne continued his law studies for several years, he was simultaneously enrolled in the School of Design in Aix, where he remained until 1861.
In 1861 Cézanne finally convinced his father to allow him to go to Paris. He planned to join Zola there and to enroll in the École des Beaux-Arts. But his application was rejected and, although he had gained inspiration from visits to the Louvre, particularly from the study of Diego Velázquez and Caravaggio, Cézanne experienced self-doubt and returned to Aix within the year. He entered his father's banking house but continued to study at the School of Design.
The remainder of the decade was a period of flux and uncertainty for Cézanne. His attempt to work in his father's business was abortive, and he returned to Paris in 1862 and stayed for a year and a half. During this period he met Monet and Pissarro and became acquainted with the revolutionary work of Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet. Cézanne also admired the fiery romanticism of Eugène Delacroix's paintings. But he was never entirely comfortable with Parisian life and periodically returned to Aix, where he could work in relative isolation. He retreated there, for instance, during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871).
Works of the 1860s
Cézanne's paintings from the 1860s are peculiar, bearing little overt resemblance to the artist's mature and more important style. The subject matter is brooding and melancholy and includes fantasies, dreams, religious images, and a general preoccupation with the macabre. His technique in these early paintings is similarly romantic, often impassioned. In the Man in a Blue Cap (also called Uncle Dominique, 1865-1866) pigments have been applied with a palette knife and the surface is everywhere dense with impasto. The same qualities characterize the weird Washing of a Corpse (1867-1869), which seems to picture the events in a morgue and to be a pietà as well.
A fascinating aspect of Cézanne's style in the 1860s is its sense of energy. Although the works are groping and uncertain in comparison to the artist's later expressions, they nevertheless reveal a profound depth of feeling. Each painting seems ready to explode its limits and its surface. Moreover, each seems the conception of an artist who could be either madman or genius. That Cézanne would evolve into the latter, however, can in no way be known from these examples. Nor was it known by many, if any, of his contemporaries. Although Cézanne received encouragement from Pissarro and some of the other impressionists during the 1860s and enjoyed the occasional critical backing of his friend Zola, his pictures were consistently rejected by the annual Salons and frequently inspired more ridicule than did the early efforts of other experimenters in the same generation.
Cézanne and Impressionism
In 1872 Cézanne moved to Pontoise, where he spent 2 years working very closely with Pissarro. During this period Cézanne became convinced that one must paint directly from nature, with the result that romantic and religious subjects began to disappear from his canvases. In addition, the somber, murky range of his palette began to give way to fresher, more vibrant colors.
As a direct result of his stay in Pontoise, Cézanne decided to participate in the first exhibition of the Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs in 1874. This historic exhibition, which was organized by radical artists who had been persistently rejected by the official Salons, inspired the term "impressionism"— originally a derogatory expression coined by a newspaper critic. It was the first of eight similar exhibits which took place between 1874 and 1886. After 1874, however, Cézanne exhibited in only one other impressionist show, the third, which was held in 1877 and to which he submitted 16 paintings.
After 1877 Cézanne gradually withdrew from his impressionist colleagues and worked in increasing isolation at his home in southern France. This withdrawal was linked with two factors: first, the more personal direction his work began to take, a direction not basically aligned with that of the other impressionists; second, the disappointing responses which his art continued to generate among the public at large. In fact, Cézanne did not exhibit publicly for almost 20 years after the third impressionist show.
Cézanne's paintings from the 1870s clearly show the influence of impressionism. In the House of the Hanged Man (1873-1874) and the Portrait of Victor Choquet (1875-1877) he painted directly from the subject and employed the short, loaded brushstrokes which are characteristic of the style as it was forged by Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro. But Cézanne's impressionism never has the delicate look or the sensuous feel that the style has in the hands of its originators. Rather, his impressionism is strained and discomforting, as if he were trying fiercely to coalesce color, brushstroke, surface, and volume into a more tautly unified entity. In the Portrait of Victor Choquet, for instance, the surface is achieved in the face of an obvious struggle: to give each brushstroke parity with the brushstrokes adjacent to it, thereby calling attention to the unity and flatness of the canvas ground; and, at the same time, to present a convincing impression of the sitter's volume and substantiality. Mature impressionism tended to forsake the latter value in favor of the former; Cézanne himself spent most of the 1880s developing a pictorial language which would reconcile both, but for which there was no precedent.
During the 1880s Cézanne saw less and less of his friends, and several personal events affected him deeply. In 1886 he married Hortense Fiquet, a model with whom he had been living for 17 years, and his father died the same year. Probably the most significant event of this year, however, was the publication of the novel L'Oeuvre by his friend Zola. The hero of the story is a painter (generally acknowledged to be a composite of Cézanne and Manet) whom Zola presented as an artistic failure. Cézanne took this presentation as a critical denunciation of his own career and, bitterly hurt, he never spoke to Zola again.
Cézanne's isolation in Aix began to lessen during the 1890s. In 1895, owing largely to the urging of Pissarro, Monet, and Renoir, the dealer Ambroise Vollard showed a large number of Cézanne's paintings, and public interest in his work slowly began to develop. In 1899, 1901, and 1902 the artist sent pictures to the annual Salon des Indépendants in Paris, and in 1904 he was given an entire room at the Salon d'Automne. While painting outdoors in the fall of 1906 Cézanne was overtaken by a storm and became ill. He died in Aix on Oct. 22, 1906. At the Salon d'Automne of 1907 his achievement was honored with a large retrospective exhibition.
Cézanne's paintings from the last 2 1/2 decades of his life established new paradigms for the development of modern art. Working slowly and patiently, he transformed the restless power of his earlier years into the structuring of a pictorial language that has affected almost every radical phase of 20th-century art. This new language is apparent in many works, including the Bay of Marseilles from L'Estaque (1883-1885), Mont Sainte-Victoire (1885-1887), the Cardplayers (1890-1892), the White Sugar Bowl (1890-1894), and the Great Bathers (1895-1905).
Each of these works confronts the viewer with its identity as a painting; that is, the images of landscape, still life, or human figure are spread in all directions across the surface so that the surface compels attention in and of itself. The consistency of short, hatched brushstrokes helps to ensure this surface unity. Likewise, individual colors are scattered throughout a given composition, and their repetition generates a color web across the canvas ground.
But color and brushstroke serve other ends as well. Cézanne's brush stroke, for instance, is used to model individual masses and spaces as if those masses and spaces were carved out of paint itself. It is these brush strokes which the cubists employed in their analysis of form. And color, while unifying and establishing surface, also tends to generate space and volume, because, as various colors are juxtaposed, some tend to recede into space while others appear to project toward the viewer. What this means is that Cézanne achieves flatness and spatiality at the same time. By calling primary attention to the painting's flatness, however, he denies the possibility that his space or volume can be read as if it were being seen through a window. In other words, his space and volume belong exclusively to the painting medium. Cézanne's insistence on the integrity and uniqueness of painting as a medium has additionally meant that the demands of visible reality must ultimately give way when they meet the demands of the pictorial surface. This was a crucial step in the development of abstract art in the 20th century.
There are many important books dealing with Cézanne. Two early studies are particularly crucial: Roger Fry, Cézanne: A Study of His Development (1927), and Lionello Venturi, Cézanne: Son Art—Son Oeuvre, in French (2 vols., 1936). All recent studies have had to deal directly with these two seminal works. Two excellent monographs are John Rewald, Paul Cézanne: A Biography (1936; trans. 1948), and Meyer Schapiro, Paul Cézanne (1952). A work which probes Cézanne's psychological motivations is Jack Lindsay, Cézanne: His Life and Art (1969). For Cézanne's drawings see Alfred Neumeyer, Drawings (1958). A comprehensive view of impressionism and Cézanne's relation to the movement is John Rewald, The History of Impressionism (1946; rev. ed. 1961). □
Born: January 19, 1839
Died: October 22, 1906
The French painter Paul Cézanne was one of the most important figures in the development of modern painting, in particular abstract art and cubism, a style of painting in which geometric shapes are used.
Struggling to become an artist
Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence, France, on January 19, 1839. His father, Philippe Auguste, was the cofounder of a successful banking firm, which afforded Cézanne financial security that was unavailable to most of his fellow artists. In 1852 Cézanne entered the Collège Bourbon, where he met and became friends with Émile Zola (1840–1902). This friendship was important for both men: with youthful spirit they dreamed of successful careers in the Paris art world, Cézanne as a painter and Zola as a writer. Consequently, Cézanne began to study painting and drawing at the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Design) in Aix in 1856. His father was against the pursuit of an artistic career, and in 1858 he persuaded Cézanne to enter law school at the University of Aix. Although Cézanne continued his law studies for several years, at the same time he was enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts in Aix, where he remained until 1861.
In 1861 Cézanne finally convinced his father to allow him to go to Paris, France. He planned to join Zola there and to enroll in the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but his application was rejected. Although he had gained inspiration from visits to the famous art museum, the Louvre, particularly from studying the painters Diego Velázquez (1599–1660) and Caravaggio (1573–1610), Cézanne experienced self-doubt and returned to Aix within the year. He entered his father's banking house but was bored with the work. At the same time he continued to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Aix.
The remainder of the decade was a period of uncertainty for Cézanne. He returned to Paris in 1862 and stayed for a year and a half. During this period he met Claude Monet (1840–1926) and Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), and he became familiar with the revolutionary work of Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) and Édouard Manet (1832–1883). But he was never entirely comfortable with Parisian life and occasionally returned to Aix, where he could work and be alone.
Works of the 1860s
Cézanne's paintings from the 1860s are odd and bear little resemblance to the artist's mature and more important style. The subject matter is dark and depressing and includes fantasies, dreams, religious images, and a general theme concerned with death.
A fascinating aspect of Cézanne's style in the 1860s is its sense of energy. Each piece seems the work of an artist who could be either madman or genius. That Cézanne would evolve into the latter, however, can in no way be known from these earlier examples. Although Cézanne received encouragement from Pissarro and other artists during the 1860s and enjoyed the occasional critical backing of his friend Zola, his pictures were consistently rejected by the annual salons (art exhibitions in France) and earned him harsh criticism.
Cézanne and impressionism
In 1872 Cézanne moved to Pontoise, France, where he spent two years working very closely with Pissarro. During this period Cézanne became convinced that one must paint directly from nature. The result was that romantic and religious subjects began to disappear from his canvases. In addition, the dark range of his palette (range of colors) began to give way to fresher, more vibrant colors.
Cézanne, as a direct result of his stay in Pontoise, decided to participate in the first exhibition of the Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs in 1874. Radical artists who had been constantly rejected by the official salons organized this historic exhibition. It inspired the term "impressionism," a revolutionary art form where the "impression" of a scene or object is generated and light is simulated by primary colors.
After 1877 Cézanne gradually withdrew from the impressionists and worked in increasing isolation at his home in southern France. This withdrawal was linked with two factors. First, the more personal direction his work began to take, a direction not taken by the other impressionists. Second, the disappointing responses that his art continued to generate among the public at large. In fact, Cézanne did not show his art publicly for almost twenty years after the third impressionist show.
Cézanne's paintings from the 1870s clearly show the influence of impressionism. In the House of the Hanged Man (1873–1874) and the Portrait of Victor Choquet (1875–1877) he painted directly from the subject and used the short, loaded brushstrokes that are characteristic of the style as it was forged by Monet, Pissarro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919).
During the 1880s Cézanne saw less and less of his friends, and several personal events affected him deeply. In 1886 he married Hortense Fiquet, a model with whom he had been living for seventeen years. Also, his father died that same year. Probably the most significant event of this year, however, was the publication of the novel L'Oeuvre by his friend Zola. The hero of the story is a painter (generally acknowledged to be a combination of Cézanne and Manet) whom Zola presented as an artistic failure. Cézanne took this as an insult to both him and his career and, bitterly hurt, he never spoke to Zola again.
Cézanne's isolation in Aix began to lessen during the 1890s. In 1895, owing largely to the urging of Pissarro, Monet, and Renoir, the dealer Ambroise Vollard (1865–1939) showed a large number of Cézanne's paintings, and public interest in his work slowly began to develop. In 1899, 1901, and 1902 Cézanne sent pictures to the annual Salon des Indépendants in Paris. In 1904 he was given an entire room at the Salon d'Automne. While painting outdoors in the fall of 1906 Cézanne was overtaken by a storm and became ill. He died in Aix on October 22, 1906. At the Salon d'Automne of 1907 his achievement was honored with a large retrospective exhibition (an exhibit that shows an artist's life work).
Cézanne's paintings from the last twenty-five years of his life led to the development of modern art. Working slowly and patiently, he developed a style that has affected almost every radical phase of twentieth-century art. This new form is apparent in many works, including the Bay of Marseilles from L'Estaque (1883–1885), Mont Sainte-Victoire (1885–1887), the Cardplayers (1890–1892), the White Sugar Bowl (1890–1894), and the Great Bathers (1895–1905).
For More Information
Cézanne, Paul. Paul Cézanne, Letters. Rev. ed. Edited by John Rewald. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1984.
Mason, Antony. Cézanne. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's, 1994.
Verdi, Richard. Cézanne. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1992.
Art and the Body
Art and the Body
Studying the Body. Renaissance artists had little personal freedom in how they depicted the divine body, especially that of Christ. Pictorial tradition emphasized the need to demonstrate both the divine and human aspects of Christ’s nature. Techniques that stressed Christ’s smooth and serene forehead, upstanding carriage, and dignified demeanor influenced pictorial conventions of other religious figures. As artists mastered naturalistic canons, they ran the risk of creating religious images that awakened problematic emotions in the viewer. For example, the image of St. Sebastian, located in San Marco in Florence, was removed because of reports that the comely, seminude image had provoked women to sexual fantasies. Renaissance artists also glorified the human body and strove to master the perfection of form. Inspired by the canons of proportion, based on classical antiquity, they created idealized figures whose proportions and measurements internalized order and in turn exemplified Renaissance ideals of harmonious beauty. The Renaissance fascination with the sculptural idea of contrapposto (the shifting weight of limbs to suggest the natural poise of the still body) clearly manifests this ideal. At the same time, scientific interest in anatomical dissection allowed artists to draw from cadavers, stimulating a better understanding of muscular and skeletal structures so that artists could produce a more naturalistic representation of the human body. Classical medical authorities, such as the second-century Greek physician Galen, however, still remained the standards by which artists and scientists interpreted the functioning of the human body. Leonardo da Vinci’s fascination with the way in which human character connected with physiognomy led him to create a series of graphic studies of cadavers, portrait caricatures, and scientific notes on the working of the human body. In Giorgio Vasari’s Vite de' piú eccelenti architetti, pittori ed scultori italiani (Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Artists, 1550, commonly known as Lives of the Artists), he recorded how da Vinci struggled in his The Last Supper (1495-1497) to depict the inner character of each disciple through external poses and bodily gestures and the ultimate challenge of creating compelling representations of Good and Evil in his portraits of Christ and Judas Iscariot.
The Suffering Body. The image of Christ as the Man of Sorrows was a key late-medieval devotional model for understanding heroic bodily suffering. The deep sorrows expressed by the Virgin Mary and Christ’s disciples established how the viewer was to respond with pity and piety for Christ’s sacrifice for mankind. Dominican friars had
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such images in their cells and were encouraged to visualize this event while praying, reading, or meditating. The friars saw that the Virgin and her son looked back at them with a compassionate gaze. A half-length figure of Christ wearing a crown of thorns, arms crossed to display the nail wounds in his hands, became a popular image recollecting his suffering and burial. Such images were based upon the heavenly vision Pope Gregory the Great received while he was celebrating mass. Because his vision recorded a “vera icon,” or true portrait, of the Man of Sorrows, all other models based on it were considered accurate. After Gregory’s painting was relocated to the church of Santa Croce at Rome, the monks commissioned German artist Israhel van Meckenem to reproduce it as an engraving in the 1490s. His print recorded the history and image of the icon. The text stated that prayers recited before the icon gave remission from temporal punishments (Purgatory) after death.
Taming the Body. The forceful message of eternal damnation was a prominent theme in late-medieval art and prompted viewers to ponder their own mortality. Last Judgment scenes on church exteriors reminded those who entered of heaven and hell. Wall paintings at burial grounds depicted the skeletal dead leading mankind in a dance of death. Tomb portraits of the dead as decaying bodies recalled the brevity of life to the passersby. Preoccupation with worldly pleasures, especially depictions of the seven deadly sins, reminded viewers to mend their ways. The Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch’s Tabletop of The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things (1485) is a visual representation of the relationship between God, sin, and mankind. The center of the panel depicts the Eye of God with Christ standing in his tomb displaying his wounds. The Latin text cautions, “Beware, beware God is watching.” At the outer ring the seven deadly sins (sloth, gluttony, avarice, envy, anger, pride, and lust) are illustrated in separate scenes. Bosch pays particular attention to the role of gender and class and the social repercussions of sinful behavior, but the key message is that the lack of self-control leads to universal human folly. For example, the scene of lust shows a noble couple courting in the presence of two fools. A brawl outside an inn takes place between two men and a woman whose actions are the folly of anger. At the outer edges of the panel, death, divine judgment, and heaven or hell await the sinners.
The Gendered Body. Print culture commented on the folly of love and sensuality as well and clarified the differences between true and false love, lawful marriage and adultery, for the urban middle classes. Fifteenth-century municipal governments manifested similar concerns by enacting stricter legislation against adultery, prostitution, and illegitimacy. Classical and biblical conceptions of women as lustful seducers inspired many depictions of the “power of women” theme. Print series that recorded the downfall of male biblical heroes such as Samson, Solomon, and David, who lost their strength, wisdom, and piety to feminine wiles, were displayed in town halls and on decorative objects. In humanist circles the theme of Aristotle and Phyllis added new dimensions to the depiction of women as lustful seducers. Elite viewers recognized the story of the great philosopher, Aristotle, who chastised his pupil Alexander the Great about his excessive devotion to the youthful Phyllis. In visual representations Phyllis wreaks her revenge by reducing him to a beast of burden. Classical images of Hercules at the Crossroads, choosing between virtue and vice represented by two women who woo him, also illustrated the dilemma of male desire.
The Socialized Body. Renaissance humanists emphasized that the duality of human nature and free will allowed human beings to develop their higher, divine nature by cultivating the mind or upper body and suppressing the desires of the lower body. In 1530 Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus penned a short etiquette manual intended for the instruction of children. Erasmus’s Manners for Children begins with the premise that a disciplined body is as much a product of a liberal education as a well-trained mind. Learning how to blow one’s nose, break wind, and urinate discreetly in public were seen as important steps toward social behaviors that disciplined the latent animality of human nature. Erasmus’s emphasis on bodily discipline paralleled sixteenth-century reformers’ efforts to impose new standards of moral behavior upon the general European populace and contributed to the popularity and proliferation of etiquette manuals as a literary genre. Writing about his experience at the ducal court in Urbino, Italian writer Baldassare Castiglione articulated the emergence of a new code of noble behavior in his Il cortegiano (The Courtier, 1528). For Castiglione, sprezzatura (grace), the ability to conceal physical exertion as well as inner feelings, was the guiding principle of courtly demeanor. It permitted courtiers to manipulate patronage systems at court and control their social identities by distinguishing themselves from their peers. The control of bodily gestures, facial expressions, and carriage gradually came to be envisioned as an index of civil and Christian society. This ideal was readily manifest in the field of courtly portraiture, where the conventions of self-representation focused on the decorum and dignity of the sitter. Raphael’s painting of Castiglione (circa 1515) established a widely emulated standard for court portraits in the sixteenth century. The elegance of his clothing, refinement of his gestures, and overall restraint in demeanor exemplified the new mannered courtly ideal.
Michael Baxendall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972).
Jane Turner, ed., The Dictionary of Art (New York: Grove, 1996).
Evelyn Welch, Art and Society in Italy, 1350-1500 (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
CÉZANNE, PAULcÉzanne's mature styles
the late cÉzanne
CÉZANNE, PAUL (1839–1906), French artist and forerunner of twentieth-century avant-garde artistic movements.
Paul Cézanne was born on 19 January 1839 at Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. His father was a wealthy banker. From 1856 to 1858, Cézanne studied academic drawing in Aix. In 1859, despite his father's disapproval, he decided to dedicate himself to painting as a career.
At the urging of his childhood friend, Émile Zola (1840–1902), in 1861 Cézanne settled in Paris where he painted freely at the Académie Suisse and studied the old masters at the Louvre. But, having failed the entrance exams to the École des beaux-arts, he returned to Aix feeling that he had no artistic future. While working full time in his father's lucrative banking business, Cézanne still took art lessons. In late 1862, he returned to Paris but failed again to gain entrance to the École des beaux-arts. Back in the obscurity of Aix, Cézanne painted regularly but the Salons refused his works. This early Romantic period, which consisted of figure compositions and landscapes, is marked by vigorous light-dark contrasts (The Abduction, 1867). Angered at being denied entry to the École des beaux-arts for a third time, in 1866 Cézanne sent a letter of protest against the jury system to the director of the school, an act that inspired Zola to pen his novel Mon Salon in defense of modern painting.
From 1866 to 1869, Cézanne alternated his stays between Aix and Paris, where he socialized with those modern young painters who would come to be known as the impressionists. In 1869, he started a love affair with model Marie-Hortense Fiquet, who would bear him a son in 1872, and began living with her at L'Estaque on the Mediterranean coast. Over the years, Cézanne would paint thirty-three portraits of her, all entitled Madame Cézanne.
After 1870, like the impressionists, Cézanne began working outdoors and building form with color rather than with strong tonal contrasts. During this impressionist period that stretched from 1871 to 1877, he painted his first important landscapes, including The House of the Hanged Man at Auvers (1873) and Landscape near Auvers (1874). In 1874 and 1877, he participated in the first and third impressionist exhibitions. But Cézanne's association with the impressionist circle came to a gradual end as he attempted to develop his own independent style. He returned to Aix and for the next ten years, highly irritable and suffering from diabetes, he worked in almost complete isolation.
From 1878 to 1887, Cézanne created the paintings of his constructivist period as, looking for an ever-greater formal organization of the natural world, he strove to capture the exact relation between structure, organization, and color. Between 1883 and 1887, he painted some of his most celebrated landscapes, including many views of Mont Sainte-Victoire (Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from Gardanne, 1885–1886), of L'Estaque (Houses at L'Estaque, 1883–1885; Rock at L'Estaque, 1882), and of the Bay of Marseille (Bay of Marseille Seen from L'Estaque, 1883–1885), as well as some noteworthy still lifes and figure compositions.
In 1886, he married Fiquet, and his father died, leaving him a small fortune. He broke with Zola after the publication of the latter's L'oeuvre, which features an unflattering character modeled on Cézanne's cantankerous personality.
From 1888 to 1898, he created the paintings of his synthetic period, in which he achieved a new geometric and expressive order. Anticipating cubist explorations of space, Cézanne translated houses,
landscapes, and other subjects into cones, cylinders, and spheres, as he sought to synthesize multiple planes of color and abstracted images. He painted masterpieces like The Kitchen Table (1888–1890), The Card Players (1890–1892), and The Bathers (1890–1891). His fame growing, in 1895 Cézanne had his first one-man show in Paris.
In 1899, Cézanne left his wife and son and was distraught over the break-up for the rest of his life. The French avant-garde became aware of his importance. Post-impressionist painters traveled to Provence to seek his counsel. Annoyed at first, he finally seemed to welcome the attention.
From 1900 to 1906, Cézanne created the paintings and watercolors of his late period, his art becoming more and more abstract and geometric as forms were created from interlocking color surfaces and the disappearance of the background (The Park of Château-Noir, 1900; Nudes in Landscape, 1900–1905; Large Bathers, 1899–1906), and he began writing down his views about painting. These developments set the ground rules for the debates about painting in the early twentieth century. In 1902 the death of Zola affected him deeply. Two years later Cézanne was given a whole exhibition room at the Salon d'Automne, which established his European reputation. In 1906, caught in a storm while painting outdoors, he collapsed and died in Aix, on 22 October, of pneumonia.
Bernard, Émile. Souvenirs sur Paul Cézanne. Paris, 1911. Letters focus on Cézanne's artistic theories and upon general aesthetic questions.
Doran, Michael, ed. Conversations with Cézanne. Translated by Julie Lawrence Cochran. Berkeley, Calif., 2001. Biographical and stylistic documents on Cézanne's last ten years, including interviews with the painter and correspondence with Émile Bernard.
Kendall, Richard, ed. Cézanne by Himself. London, 1988. Previously unpublished documents by Cézanne on his late paintings and works on paper.
Rewald, John, ed. Paul Cézanne: Letters. Translated by Marguerite Kay. Oxford, U.K., 1941. Reprint, New York, 1995. Cézanne's ideas on art are to be found in these numerous letters to friends, critics, and fellow painters, assembled and presented by the renowned British art historian John Rewald.
Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, Nina Maria. Cézanne and Provence: The Painter in His Culture. Chicago, 2003. Documents Cézanne's regional alliance, which deeply affected his stylistic innovations.
Baumann, Felix A., Walter Feilchenfeldt, and Hubertus Gassner, eds. Cézanne and the Dawn of Modern Art. Essen, Germany, and New York, 2005.
Becks-Malorny, Ulrike. Cézanne. London, 2001. Provides an excellent introduction to the artist's life, work, and stylistic periods.
Cachin, Isabelle, and Françoise Cachin, eds. Cézanne. Paris, 1996. Exemplary exhibition catalog published in conjunction with the major international retrospective organized on the centenary of Cézanne's first solo exhibition mounted in Paris.
Dorival, Bernard. Cézanne. Translated by H. H. A. Thackthwaite. New York, 1948. Most important introductory text to the life and art of Cézanne published before 1950.
Faure, Élie. Paul Cézanne. Translated by Walter Pacht. New York, 1913. Classic study of the poetic significance of Cézanne's subject matters by one of the best-known French art historians of the first half of the twentieth century.
Fry, Roger. Cézanne: A Study of His Development. London, 1927. First serious study of his artistic evolution.
Mack, Gerstle. Paul Cézanne. New York, 1935. First pre-World War II English-language biography that chronicled Cézanne's life and artistic evolution.
Rewald, John. Paul Cézanne, A Biography. New York, 1937. Reprint, New York, 1968. Still one of the best biographies of Cézanne by one of the world's leading authority on French impressionism.
——. The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: A Catalogue Raisonné. 2 vols. New York, 1996, Definitive research tool.
Rubin, William, ed. Cézanne: The Late Work. New York, 1977. Published on the occasion of the landmark 1977 retrospective exhibition held at the MOMA.
Schapiro, Meyer. Paul Cézanne. New York, 1952. Thorough introduction to the stylistic evolution of Cézanne by America's best-known twentieth century art historian.
Wechsler, Judith, ed. Cézanne in Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1975. Documented reference work for art historians and students alike that chronicles and contextualizes Cézanne's life and art.
http://www.metmuseum.org; http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk; http://www.nga.gov