Cezanne and Provence: The Painter in His Culture

Overview

In 1886 Paul Cézanne left Paris permanently to settle in his native Aix-en-Provence. Nina M. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer argues that, far from an escapist venture like Gauguin's stay in Brittany or Monet's visits to Normandy, Cézanne's departure from Paris was a deliberate abandonment intimately connected with late-nineteenth-century French regionalist politics.

Like many of his childhood friends, Cézanne detested the homogenizing effects of modernism and bourgeois capitalism on the ...

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Overview

In 1886 Paul Cézanne left Paris permanently to settle in his native Aix-en-Provence. Nina M. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer argues that, far from an escapist venture like Gauguin's stay in Brittany or Monet's visits to Normandy, Cézanne's departure from Paris was a deliberate abandonment intimately connected with late-nineteenth-century French regionalist politics.

Like many of his childhood friends, Cézanne detested the homogenizing effects of modernism and bourgeois capitalism on the culture, people, and landscapes of his beloved Provence. Turning away from the mainstream modernist aesthetic of his impressionist years, Cézanne sought instead to develop a new artistic tradition more evocative of his Provençal heritage. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer shows that Provence served as a distinct and defining cultural force that shaped all aspects of Cézanne's approach to representation, including subject matter, style, and technical treatment. For instance, his self-portraits and portraits of family members reflect a specifically Provençal sense of identity. And Cézanne's Provençal landscapes express an increasingly traditionalist style firmly grounded in details of local history and even geology. These landscapes, together with images of bathers, cardplayers, and other figures, were key facets of Cézanne's imaginary reconstruction of Provence as primordial and idyllic—a modern French Arcadia.

Highly original and lavishly illustrated, Cézanne and Provence gives us an entirely new Cézanne: no longer the quintessential icon of generic, depersonalized modernism, but instead a self-consciously provincial innovator of mainstream styles deeply influenced by Provençal culture, places, and politics.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While art historians have long treated Provence as merely "another 'motif' in Cezanne's visual repertory," Athanassoglou-Kallmyer (Eugene Delacroix: Prints, Politics, and Satire) smartly insists that the painter's regional alliance wholly affected both his stylistic innovation and his critical acclaim. In 1886, at age 47, the painter abandoned Paris for his native Aix-en-Provence. Contextualizing Cezanne's move within late 19th-century French nationalist efforts to preserve and exalt the regional cultures that modernization threatened to destroy, the author produces startlingly original, often convincing readings of his work. She invokes the commercialized revivals of once-Rabelaisian local festivals to illuminate Cezanne's wry burlesques of "disjointed and weightless" harlequins moving "within a flat, boxlike space." She considers the 1895 parliamentary ban on the manufacture of cards, which jeopardized a major regional industry and pastime, as a provocation for Cezanne's impassive Cardplayers. She brings contemporary advances in geology and archeology to bear upon the painter's densely striated, crudely forged icons of Mont Sainte-Victoire; by consciously aligning his work with the primitive artifacts discovered at the mountain's base, she contends, Cezanne aimed to tunnel down into the landscape's "essence" and back to a cultural purity. Finally, she shows how the painter's deliberate mythification of Provence anticipated his own critical reception. When his work was at last exhibited in 1895, Parisian critics, now keen to idealize the provinces as the destined site of national renewal, lauded Cezanne as the authentic "hard-toiling village artisan" whose coarse style rebuked the polished products of the elitist Salon. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer may overstate her case by marshaling every facet of Cezanne's oeuvre-pastoral scenes, subversive humor, pottery, pigeons, fabric and skulls-into a sphere of specifically Proven al concern. Still, her tirelessly researched and generously illustrated study (including 120 color plates, 102 halftones) freshly de-centers the academy's standard conflation of modernism and urbanism, and impressively grounds the elusive "father" of modern painting in a vivid place and propitious time. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Modernism, particularly in painting, is viewed as urban, urbane, and forward-looking. Though most of Paul Cezanne's work is removed from the city and nightlife scenes of many of his modernist contemporaries, he is acknowledged as a modernist master. Modernism would seem to have little to do with a harking back to the glories of the past, but Athanassoglou-Kallmyer (art history, Univ. of Delaware) here presents a strong case that much of what drove Cezanne's modernist urge was not the daily life surrounding him during his Parisian years but rather his wish to recapture what he remembered as the simple life in his native Provence. Marshaling an impressive body of evidence from a variety of sources, the author shows the backward-looking, anti-progress milieu in which Cezanne (as well as friends like novelist Emile Zola) moved. Extensively illustrated with both the works of the artist and illustrations from contemporaneous publications, this book makes a strong case that Cezanne's Modernism is based on his deep Proven al roots, heritage, politics, and culture. Recommended for larger collections of modernist or cultural studies.-Martin R. Kalfatovic, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226423081
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2003
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 334
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Nina M. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer is a professor of art history at the University of Delaware. She is the author of French Images from the Greek War of Independence (1821-1830): Art and Politics under the Restoration and Eugène Delacroix: Prints, Politics, and Satire, 1814-1822.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
List of Illustrations
Introduction - A Retour au Pays
1. Provincials
2. In the Spirit of Rabelais
3. The Old and the New
4. Sainte-Victoire and the End of Time
5. Arcadia
6. Epilogue in Paris: Vollard
Notes
Index of Works
General Index

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