For many artists and writers, the art of Paul Cézanne represents the key to modernity. His paintings were a touchstone for writers such as Samuel Beckett as much as for artists such as Henri Matisse. Rainer Maria Rilke revered him deeply, as did Pablo Picasso. They thought if they lost touch with his sense of life, they lost an essential element of their own self-understanding.
In If These Apples Should Fall, celebrated art historian T. J. Clark looks back on Cézanne from our current moment when such judgments need justifying. What was it, he asks, that held Cézanne’s viewers spellbound?
At the heart of Cézanne’s work lies a sense of disquiet: a hopelessness haunting the vividness, an anxiety beneath the splendid colors. Clark addresses this strangeness head-on, examining the art of Camille Pissarro, Matisse, and others in relation to Cézanne’s. Above all, he speaks to the uncanniness and beauty of Cézanne’s achievement.
T.J. Clark is Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of many books including the seminal The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers and Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism.