Exhibition- Cezanne and the Modern at The Ashmolean, Oxford.

croppedbookcoverI have previously made a number of studies of the work of Cezanne and was keen to see what extra this exhibition may have to offer. The works were from the collection of businessman Henry Pearlman, and most from the period of late 19thC and early 20thC.

Much of the collections of Cezanne’s works are drawings and studies made using graphite and watercolour where you get a sense of his exploration of the form of his subject. It is always a joy to be able to get up close and look at the marks and brush strokes, and to experience the sense of the energy in them. In that respect it was actually a painting by Van Gogh- Tarascon Stage Coach 1888, which I really enjoyed looking at. The paint is applied very thickly impasto and with great energy leaving great gouged marks in the painted surface that result in an amazing textured surface.

Jonathon Jones in his article for The Guardian ask the question ‘what is “the modern” this exhibition maps?’ alluding to the title of the exhibition. I think the ‘Modern’ is one of an art historical sense referring to a big shift in artistic thinking. Cezanne’s study of motifs where form and the use of perspective inspired a different way of looking that is credited with being the first step towards Cubism, developed by Picasso and Braque. The other artists who feature in this collection where of that time. Several will have known each other and spent time working together, but I think really the exhibition gives a flavour of the time that is very much about the taste of Henry Pearlman. As Jonathon Jones points out, there are major artists of that period, like Picasso and Matisse, that do not feature here. Jones conclusion regarding the ‘Modern’ mapped here ‘is art’s recognition that nothing in nature is quite so strange and fascinating as our own perceptions and interpretations of it’, perhaps he is referring to Cezanne’s new way of looking.

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