Rilke's prayerful responses to the french master's beseeching art

For a long time nothing, and then suddenly one has the right eyes.

Virtually every day in the fall of 1907, Rainer Maria Rilke returned to a Paris gallery to view a Cezanne exhibition. Nearly as frequently, he wrote dense and joyful ...
See more details below
Letters on Cézanne

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook - Second Edition)
BN.com price


Rilke's prayerful responses to the french master's beseeching art

For a long time nothing, and then suddenly one has the right eyes.

Virtually every day in the fall of 1907, Rainer Maria Rilke returned to a Paris gallery to view a Cezanne exhibition. Nearly as frequently, he wrote dense and joyful letters to his wife, Clara Westhoff, expressing his dismay before the paintings and his ensuing revelations about art and life.

Rilke was knowledgeable about art and had even published monographs, including a famous study of Rodin that inspired his New Poems. But Cezanne's impact on him could not be conveyed in a traditional essay. Rilke's sense of kinship with Cezanne provides a powerful and prescient undercurrent in these letters -- passages from them appear verbatim in Rilke's great modernist novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Letters on Cezanne is a collection of meaningfully private responses to a radically new art.

This collection "says more about art than any other book I know . . . These letters distill the essence of what a painting truly is . . . The greatness of Cezanne could be conveyed only by an artist equally great."--The New Yorker.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
My dear friend: what I am trying to say is that you should forget everything you've read in my letters about the structure of the novel -- just sit down and write." The final sentence of the Peruvian author Mario Vargas Letters to a Young Novelist, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), may undercut the careful tutorial it concludes, but it's probably his soundest advice. As didactic as Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" -- "Have you read ' Jealousy ' by Alain Robbe-Grillet?" "And, speaking of Joyce, wasn't 'Ulysses' a cataclysmic innovation?" -- Vargas Llosa's book takes the form of a one-sided correspondence with an imaginary fan. Defining the fiction writer as a rebel, a " 'dissident' from reality," Vargas Llosa lectures on persuasiveness and the "aura of indispensability" present in the language of a true writer.

That aura clings to nearly every phrase of Rilke's Letters on Cezanne (a new edition is forthcoming from North Point), which he wrote to his wife in 1907 while living in Paris and waiting for the proofs of "New Poems" to appear. Two rooms devoted to Cézanne at the Autumn Salon mesmerized him -- the still-lifes in particular, which he found "wonderfully occupied with themselves." The painter's "objectivity" resonated with Rilke's emerging interest in the Ding-Gedicht, or "thing poem." One canvas showed a red armchair whose "round bulging back curves and slopes forward and down to the armrests (which are sewn up like the sleeve stump of an armless man)." Cézanne's colors -- "chrome yellow" and "burning lacquer red -- could, he wrote, "heal one of indecision once and for all. The good conscience of these reds, these blues, their simple truthfulness, it educates you." (Dana Goodyear)

Subscriptions to The New Yorker are available in our Magazine Store.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This small volume of correspondence, written in 1907, reflects Rilke's admiration for the French painter Cezanne, who was a major influence on the poet. ``These profound letters mirror the search of a writer grappling with the most intimate questions of identity and artistic purpose,'' stated PW. (October)
Library Journal
These letters to his wife were written by Rilke on a sojourn to Paris in 1907, where he found himself drawn to the Grand Palais every day to see a posthumous exhibit of Cezanne's paintings, staged one year after the French painter's death. Many of the letters are included in day-by-day succession, as Rilke outlines his deep affinity to Cezanne, as well as to van Gogh, in exquisite detail. Agee succeeds in capturing Rilke's instinct for language; we see the painters through Rilke's eyes as dedicated and committed to making paintings that stretch the viewer's imagination and capacity for devotion. This slender volume lacks illustrations, which would have been useful. Some of these letters appeared in Rilke's later masterwork, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (first published in English in 1952). Saying as much about Rilke as it does about Cezanne, this new volume is particularly suited to literature collections containing other works by Rilke and may be of interest in art schools and public libraries where there is an interest in Cezanne and van Gogh.-Ellen Bates, New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
When Rilke first discovered Cezanne's paintings in an art salon in Paris, he was moved to remark, ``all reality is on his side.'' These letters, written to his wife, Clara, are the record of Rilke's efforts to impart something of Cezanne's la realisation to his own life and work, for the painter came to represent for Rilke, the poet, that perfect unity between the creator and his art which he must strive to emulate. A few impressions of van Gogh and other artists are interwoven, but the letters are primarily concerned with Cezanne. With luminous insight, clarity, and sympathy, they reflect how experiencing Cezanne's art became a sort of artistic watershed for Rilke, af ter which he could see with the ``right eyes.'' Highly recommended for liter ary and art collections. Carol J. Lich tenberg, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466807259
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/15/2002
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 878,772
  • File size: 231 KB

Meet the Author

Rainer Maria Rilke was born in Prague in 1875 and traveled throughout Europe for much of his adult life, returning frequently to Paris. There he came under the influence of the sculptor Auguste Rodin and produced much of his finest verse, most notably the two volumes of New Poems as well as the great modernist novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Among his other books of poems are The Book of Images and The Book of Hours. He lived the last years of his life in Switzerland, where he completed his two poetic masterworks, the Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus. He died of leukemia in December 1926.

Joel Agee has also translated Elias Canetti, Friedrich Dürenmatt, Gottfried Benn, and another collection of Rilke's letters, Rilke and Benvenuta: An Intimate Correspondence. He won the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize for his translation of Heinrich von Kleist's Penthesilea, a verse play. He is the author of Twelve Years: An American Boyhood in East Germany and lives in Brooklyn.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)