First of all, like all the photos in this blog, there is an enlargement available if you would like to see the whole picture. In fact, I invite you to look at the whole painting before reading my gibberish. I would like to hear what other people think is going on in this late Cezanne. Fred Lipp first brought it to my attention but as was his way he did not tell me what to think about it.
The painting is in the Guggenheim’s collection and I took the next few sentences from their website. “Cezanne’s work was motivated by a desire to give sculptural weight and volume to the instantaneity of vision achieved by the Impressionists, who painted from nature. Relying on his perception of objects in space as visually interrelated entities—as forms locked into a greater compositional structure. The strangely distorted, proto-Cubist view of the sitter—his right eye is depicted as if glimpsed from below and the left as if seen from above—contributes an enigmatic, contemplative air to the painting. ”
Cézanne is considered the precursor of Cubism. You read this all the time when people talk about Cezanne and I don’t particularly like Cubism but I love this painting. There is so much space in it that I never tire of looking at it. The wood trim on the wall below the sitter’s left elbow is coming at us and it wraps around the sitter. The wall is far from flat. The way the wall is painted it creates real space around the sitter. His left leg is coming out of the painting at us and the right falls away. The left side of his body is turning toward us while the right arm, which is actually closer to us, turns away. The chair under him shown only to his right, accents the turn in his body. With his left eye lower, much lower, than the right his head is almost spinning. His upper body is unusually long, he is way present. Cezanne has created so much volume in this painting with what some people dismiss as distortion.
I think the painting is a marvel. The card players are over the top with spatial illusion. I see aspects of these features in most of his portraits and yet when a new book, Cezanne Portraits from a show that was recently at the National Gallery, arrived there was hardly any spatial discussion. I would like to hear what others think. We will write our own book.