The National Gallery presents an exhibition comparing the landscapesj of Cezanne and Poussin. Hilary Robinson finds Cezanne more than enough to be going on with.
response to Cézanne‘s painting can foreground are so placed that they seem to be hardly ever be straightforward, Just as happening at a distance. Look past the ease. and you think you are understanding him, the constructed nature and theatricality of grabbing hold ofwhat it was that he was Poussin‘s work becomes apparent. trying to do, it all slides out of reach These two painters. apparently quite disparate. again. His own position with regard to and separated by two and a halfcenturies painting was highly complex - a position of (Poussin lived 1594—1665. Cezanne 1839- 1906). struggle before all else, a struggle over how to nonetheless have interesting similarities. The - see, how to understand; a struggle between the National Gallery, for this year‘s Festival. are t: sensual and the intellectual aspects ofpainting. Presenting 3“ CXhlbtthn examining the * ' where the intellect tries to express its approaches to landscape by the two men. It is F . understanding of the visua] world through the undoubtedly a major achievement. not only i ‘ _ '" sensual medium of oil paint, through colour and putting forward what is basically an art-historical ‘ form, It was a struggle he was able to pursue argument about their approach to landscape '4 IV I 7’ ' systematically and with huge discipline painting in an accessible way through the throughout his life, thanks to an inheritance that selection and hanging of work. but also simply in " " " ' made him financially independent, and his its gathering ofso many fine paintings. Lovers of complete lack ofinterest in the adulation ofcritics POUSSih maybe diS'dPPOinth that the Four and collectors, It is a struggle that makes his Seasons from the Louvre are not here (they are paintings fascinating, hard work and far too large for the space); but for lovers of time-consuming to look at, Cezanne. the exhibition is a complete luxury. Responding to Poussin feels quite different. He The thesis of the show is based upon Cezanne‘s feels like an aristocrat, though not one affected by reputed wish to ‘re-do Poussin according to generations of inbreeding. There is a sense of nature‘ and upon the carefully researched and authority in his work that deﬂects any selected group of quotations from critics and “F questioning; there is no obvious site ofstruggle. historians that compare or contrast the two \‘, 6 Instead. his paintings have an elegance. sense of artists. The catalogue prints comparative V ( balance and position that are expressed with an illustrations. direct contrasts between paintings 7 case that they almost persuade the viewer that by the two men. Some of these pairs seem simply “I 1 these qualities are innate orinstinctive. rather to highlight superficial compositional likenesses. E 5 than learned. The paintings are also aloof. but others are more instructive. The net result of - keeping the viewer at a distance rather than this was to make me feel that here were two men ' _' inviting intimacy; even the events in the who both wished to impose their ways ofseeing. : I: Poussin: Landscape with the Gathering of the Ashes otPhocion
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10 The List 24 — 30 August 1990