Cézanne Saw the Nobility of an Apple

Paul Cézanne, “Sous-Bois” (1894) (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Wallis Foundation Fund in memory of Hal B. Wallis)

LONDON — Cézanne at the Tate Modern is the most comprehensive show of works by the artist to be displayed in London within living memory. Its impressive range of loans suggests that the budget has not been unduly squeezed by the financially parlous circumstances of the present moment. Its documentation is broad and to the point — we see sketches by Clive Bell, which fed into that critic’s pioneering study of the artist. It enters territory that has been too little attended to in the past — the nature of Cézanne’s response to the political turbulence of his day, for example. It also shows us evidence of the humdrum, everyday facts of his art-making: his palette, for example (the one created especially in order to accommodate his thumb), and several of his heroically battered tins of paint, all ranged in a row.

Like David Hockney a little later, Cézanne felt that he had to rise to the challenge of one question above all things else: What exactly is it to be a modern artist?

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