their intellect and their rationality on their representations of nature. But a fundamental difference between the two was surely that Poussin was unashamedly interested in artifice, whereas Cezanne wanted to find order in nature. Poussin’s paintings are stage sets where momentous events in people‘s lives may be taking place — and indeed Poussin constructed little 3-D stages to aid his 2-D compositions. Ce’zanne painted not in the studio like Poussin, but in the landscape; his painting attempts to find rationality and order in the apparent wildness, sensuality and randomness of nature. He does this with such intensity, and such single-mindedness throughout his life, that a post-Freudian viewer is bound to speculate that Cézanne was also dealing with the same struggles within himself. In looking at these paintings you have to accept the same viewpoint, that same site of struggle, yourself. It is this that for me at least makes Cezanne by far the more interesting and rewarding artist.
In its chronological layout, the exhibition brings home the singularity of Cézanne’s enterprise. These are paintings, as I have said above, primarily of the intellect, but far removed from the intellectual exercise of Cubism. That happened within a decade of Cézanne’s death, and was over and done with in two or three years; it was something that almost had to be gone through as an exercise in order for'modernist painting to develop. Braque and Picasso, its main proponents, went on quickly from there. Cezanne spent his lifetime honing a particular way of seeing. Compare The A venue at the Jar de Bouffin
(probably late 18605) with La Montagne Sainte-Victoire (1904-6). The earlier work , from Cézanne’s late 305, shows already the colour harmonies, using the same tones in the foreground as the background, and the particular brush-strokes (short, precise, lying next to each other — he was definitely right-handed) that he was to deve10p throughout his life into the overall patterning ofthe late works.
A pivotal painting in the exhibition — and indeed, in Cézanne’s work as a whole — is Le Chateau de Médan (probably 1880), which is normally housed in the Burrell Collection. Herc, nature is represented as subject to a huge rational force. A grid pattern of bands travelling horizontally (river, bank, trees, skyline) and vertically (tree-trunks) is reinforced by the method of paint application. A pattern ofshort strokes, meticulously separate from each other. as if the brush was cleaned between applications,
move diagonally over the canvas. It’s one of the most obvious examples of Cézanne’s imposition ofhis will upon nature. And yet, as ifall this rigorous subjection to rationality was in danger of becoming too much, it’s also one of his most luscious paintings, far from denying physicality — luxurious colour combinations, creamy paint; as a friend said to me, it’s a very ‘lickable’ painting. It is; it also seems to be a near-perfect resolution, or synthesis, of the mind/body split that seems to be the basis of so much of Cézanne‘s struggle.
Cézanne and Poussin: The Classical Vision of Landscape is at the National Gallery of Scotland until 21 Oct.
was < -,. V“ N .sr‘~- xx: 91$-
Cezanne: Le Chateau de Medan
'l‘hc l.is124 _ 30 August 199011