Thursday, April 2

A Book About Techniques of Paul Cezanne

In the Art Library

I’m back in the OrbisPlanis Art Library for the first time since February. It’s not that I haven’t read any books or periodicals since then, I have, but I just haven’t blogged about it in the Art Library since then. Whatever, today I’m going to tell you about a great book I found a while back at our local used bookstore that I finally got around to reading.

The book is: History and Techniques of the Great Masters—Cezanne by Richard Kendall. It’s a Quantum Book (whatever that is) and published by Chartwell Books. As stated on the back cover, it’s one in a series on artists with which you're probably familiar, from Bruegel to Whistler.

I’m sure I'm not (ever) going to try to paint like Paul Cezanne or any of the other “masters.” Why would I or anyone? Anyone with any art knowledge would be able to see what you’re attempting and probably wonder why, too. Besides Cezanne has already “been there and done that.”
Anyway, I think there are two benefits to reading this book. One, if nothing else, it will greatly increase your knowledge of Cezanne’s art, style, and techniques. Understanding these can’t do anything but help your own understanding of painting. Secondly, I found the paintings in the book to be inspirational, to me anyway; maybe you will, too. So, two benefits: educational and inspirational.

The book is in paperbook, which kept the cost down, especially used, and it’s an easy read—only 64 pages. But there’s a lot in those 64 pages. The introduction gives the highlights of Cezanne’s oeuvre and takes you from his early paintings to his landscapes, his still lifes, and his nudes. There is a page on his painting methods as well as his probable palette. There’s also a Chronology of Cezanne’s life.

The rest of the book is divided into chapters on eleven of his important, if not most famous, paintings. They are not presented in chronological order, and without listing all the paintings, here are a few to whet your appetite: Self Portrait, The House of the Hanged Man, Mountains in Provence, and Woman With A Coffeepot.

Each chapter gives you the context in which the painting was conceived and rendered. It highlights and explains how a couple of specific areas were painted. In Woman With A Coffeepot, for example, it gives details of how her hand was painted, such as “the warmth of the flesh against the blue of the dress.” Each chapter also includes an actual, life-size detail (this is cool) of a section of the painting and discussion so that you get an up-close view of how Cezanne painted it, although I suspect some of the explanation had to be conjecture.

I'm telling you, this is a most interesting book, and well worth your time. It will increase your understanding of one of the great painters of the late 19th century, if not your own technique.


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