Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cézanne / Pissarro@MoMA: Two Thumbs Up

This tightly organized and focused exploration of the relationship between two precursors of modern painting makes for perfect viewing on a Summer's day. For us who have become accustomed to the radical simplifications and distortions of Picasso, these paintings seem tame and almost timid, yet it is the incredible and indelible influence of Cézanne that made Cubism possible in the first place.
A revelation of this show is how important Pissarro was to Cézanne. Many paintings by Pissarro directly inspired the paintings by the “Man-from-Aix”. Almost as Picasso and Braque would do in the next century, these two painters worked together to forge a new vision. Also like Braque and Picasso, it is difficult to tell who painted what at several junctures in thjeir shared output.
A general observation about the main difference between the two painters: in almost all cases (a major exception being and early still life by Pissarro in which the paint was laid on thick with a palette knife) Cézanne is the bolder of the two. Pissarro tended to break his forms into smaller units while Monsieur Cézanne tended towards a less nuanced and blockier application of paint. In fact, it is easy to see the appeal of divisionism or pointillism would have for Pissarro, who became a practitioner and fellow-traveller with Signat and Seurat.

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