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Paul Cézanne: «Monsieur, This is not Art!»

Thursday, 17 September 2009

paul cézanneWhen we happen to read remarks and reaction of Paul Cézanne's contemporaries to his works, we want to exclaim that it is incredible and impossible since they reacted so badly to the extent that it is really hard to perceive. Ambroise Vollard who traded in Cézanne's art works in Paris tried to purchase the paintings of the artist in the year 1895 in Aix-en-Provence and ran across the absolute incomprehension from the society. People could not seem to get a handle on what was wrong and why the trademan wanted to pay money for such rubbish. Vollard invoked discredit and ill will only by his willing to get Cézanne's paintings.

A countess who owned and kept Cézanne's paintings at the attic absolutely refused to sell them. Though, it was not because she was assured in their worth, on the contrary she thought that the paintings were just painted canvases, not the art! On the top of it, when she was told by Vollard that the rats might eat the paintings up, she replied that she would be happy if her rats would eat up her paintings.

There was an artist who was thought to be one of Cézanne's friends, and who also refused to sell his paintings but for the other reason. He thought the trader intended to make laugh at unhappy silly Cézanne who presented his paintings to the former. Moreover, this artist would write over wrote over Cézanne's paintings - «with the aim not to injury such a quality cloth». Vollard found some of Cézanne's paintings at the stair landing of a house among all the waste and acquired them for 1000 francs. When he was leaving the house, another Cézanne's works was thrown following him.

Cézanne is a painter who attempted the sacred classicism aspect - the scientific perspective. His paintings do not have a hint for architectural, geometrical precision and accuracy of details. His paintings show the real life, the world through Cézanne's perception.

However, the majority of his contemporaries did not estimated his works and contribution into the art, as well as other impressionists and post-impressionists who are now on the top auction lots around the world.

Now Cézanne is in the top ten of the most expensive artists in the world. He gives way to only Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Renoir and Rubens. Cézanne's art works are appreciated not only by collectors who are concerned first in aesthetic, cultural and artistic value of the works but those who wish to invest only in the stuff that is worth investing assets.

The prices for Cézanne's works go up regularly. In 1958 at Sotheby`s in London Cézanne's «Boy in a Red Vest» was sold for $616 thousand USD which was like spending a fortune for an artwork, while in 2007 the watercolor «Still life with Watermelon» was sold at Sotheby`s in New York for $25,5 million USD.

Cézanne's paintings have become the art works a long time ago, yet now they are referred to something luxury. They are available for the elite only. Only a millionaire may afford to invest assets in Cézanne's works, for the prices are incredibly high. The matter is about far larger assets of people who can afford putting dozens of millions in one cloth, though this is the unique long-term investment and absolute status sign.

In 1992 at Christie`s in London «Five Bathers» was sold for $5,7 million USD, while in 1993 at Sotheby`s the Still Life with Apples went for $28,6 million USD. The landscape «L'Estaque» (collection Leman-Leb, series «L'Estaque», 1883-1885) was estimated for $8-10 million USD.

Cézanne's work demonstrates a mastery of design, color, composition and draftsmanship. His often recurring, sensitive and tentative brushstrokes are highly typical and clearly recognizable. He used planes of color and small brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields, at once both a straight look of the sensations of the observing eye and an abstraction from observed nature. The paintings express Cézanne's strong study of his subjects, a searching gaze and a dogged struggle to deal with the complexity of human visual perception.

Cézanne's paintings have gone to various corners of the Earth, from the biggest European museums to the private collections. Art critics feel uncomfortable with private collectors, though. The paintings are logged in the museums, filed, included in monographs for the painter, while the private collections may keep paintings for over decades at their places and then exhibit to public, when the society hardly forget about these paintings. Thus, in 2007 the artistic world was shocked to discover the lost painting by Cézanne «Christ in the house by Simon, the Pharisee» (replica to Paolo Veroneze's canvas). This work was exhibited in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence in 1945 and then it disappeared. The painting was forgotten, it was not registered in art catalogues, neither monographs included it, while the art critic Francesca Bardazzi ran across «unknown Cézanne».

Two collections by Cézanne made within XIX and XX centuries were lost in the period of World Wars. The part of the collections is kept in various museums of the world, while there are paintings never found.

To steal Cézanne's work is the same as to make a bank robbery, yet, the consequences are similar. Thus, 20 valuable paintings were lost in 2004 from the private collection in Limpinwood, the New South Wales, including Cézanne's works «The Son on the High Chair» (1873). The paintings were assessed for about $50 million USD. However, art critics and experts called the authenticity of the work in question, and some historians stated that never heard of the painting. Though, it does not matter at all, since Cézanne left hundreds of canvases, yet the painter was famous for his striking negligence in treating his own works, and he could eliminate them, gave for a song, present to the stranger since Cézanne cooled down to his paintings as soon as the last stroke was made.

In spite of the enormous works left by Cézanne, his paintings appear at auctions not so frequently. The painting owners tend to keep their property for they are far more reliable than the bank deposit. Yet, the bank has a risk to go broke while there is no danger in that for Cézanne's paintings.

Inessa Hyder


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