Old Friend From Far Away
By Natalie Goldberg
Was skipping around in the book and liked this writing entitled Cezanne (no accent) on page 134.
I decided to post it to my blog, giving a taste of what the book is like.
I've always enjoyed Goldberg's writing.
I might have more to say about the book after I've read more.
Links on Cézanne and Pissarro art follow the excerpt. (I didn't notice what Goldberg noticed.)
"Ten years ago I saw a big Cezanne show in Philadelphia.
The lines to get in were long. The galleries were crowded. You viewed a painting behind six other people. You bent your head this way and that to see portions of the pictures between people’s arms, torsos, and heads.
I liked the paintings but I knew I was missing something.
Printed matter said Cezanne influenced generations of artists, that all subsequent famous painters had looked to him.
Cezanne painted mountains and streams, some portraits.
Other artists before him did that.
What was the big deal?
When I went home to New Mexico I asked my painter friend to explain. She tried. I didn't understand, but I held the question inside.
Then just recently I attended a show of Pissarro and Cezanne, side by side.
The two painters had been friends, often going out to the country together and setting up easels next to each other.
I was jet-lagged and groggy when I entered the museum after again waiting in a long line where I spoke to a man from Las Vegas. He'd brought his eight-year-old mother to Paris and she was too tired. He left her back in the hotel.
The minute I saw Pissarro next to his friend Cezanne
the answer from ten years ago sprang at me,
barefaced in the room.
Pissarro's paintings were well-done, but he followed an old idea of perspective. They receded the way we were taught in grammar school that a picture should move away to a distant point to give it depth.
Next to Pissarro,
Cezanne's came right at you.
There was no distance.
If it was a water scene, the water came to the edge of the canvas.
You were in the water.
You were included.
Two paintings of bouquets hung side by side. Pissarro showed the edge of the table and divided us from the bouquet.
Cezanne stuck the flowers right in my face.
I could almost smell them.
Before I’d seen Cezanne only by himself and since so many painters after him followed his way, I could not tell the new thing he had done.
But compared to his contemporary
I could see how he’d stepped right through the old manner of seeing and broken open perspective.
The experience was exhilarating.
The show centered on their friendship. How they both painted the same bridge together; then a bunch of apples in a still-life. What conviviality.
But I wondered what it must have been like for the two of them standing side by side, glancing over at the other's easel.
"Has Cezanne lost his mind? He needs to go back to school and learn to draw." Pissarro was the older.
And Cezanne, whose dedication, suffering, and loneliness are famous, must have felt sure of himself in the way changing reality can free you but also make you insecure. No one else had done this. And no one was going to applaud. Pissarro's work standing next to him must have only intensified the difference.
I notice Cezanne used looser, larger strokes, brought out the intensity of one color, did not soften the blow, was angular, took more chances.
I'd waited ten years to see what I was seeing.
I took a breath. I knew this also applied to writing.
Can you do the same? Bring your experience forward. Don't bog down in long introductions or explanations. Crash through what holds you back.
Also know sometimes you have to wait a long time for understanding.
Let's try this: Tell me what stifles you. Throw in everything that might even be a possibility. Go. Ten minutes.
Now that you've cleared the way, what is it you want to say? Step forward. Speak it upfront with no explanations. Go. Another ten minutes.
What must you be patient about? Make a list to remind yourself."
Taking risks side-by-side: Pissarro and Cezanne were close friends for twenty years...
Museum of Modern Art
Pioneering Modern Painting: Cézanne and Pissarro 1865–1885
June 26–September 12, 2005
NOTE: Click on art images at right.
Then TWO links.
1) Enter the site >
Then click on Paired Paintings at top to view Cezanne and Pissarro side-by-side
2) "Cézanne and Pissarro: Seeing Through Paint" >
Is a text presentation.
Paul Cezanne: Pity Poor Paul Cezanne
An essay contributed by: John Sheridan
"His sense of composition was highly arbitrary, and was no doubt often done completely from imagination, (one of the first artists to do this) with no consideration given for the then-mandatory use of mathematical perspective, and very little aerial perspective."
(Tons of links here.)
Book at Amazon
Pioneering Modern Painting: Cezanne and Pissarro, 1865-1885
Joachim Pissarro (Great-grandfather is Camille Pissarro. See findarticles.com link above.)
Google Images Pissarro
Google Images Cezanne
Flickr User has tons of pics from Metropolitan Museum of Art.
(See a Pissarro there.)