I’m immersing myself in Cézanne at the moment. This project started with a visit to an exhibition of the Pearlman Collection at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The exhibition included many Cézanne watercolours. I love Cézanne anyway, and to be in a gallery with so many, and so close-up, was quite thrilling. The best exhibition experience I’ve had. I jotted a few notes about his watercolours:
- he uses white space / unpainted ground as a positive part of the picture
- he uses small patches of colour, overlaid, to build an effect; wet on dry
- the colours are jewel-like and not muddy
- these marks form undulations of cool and warm colours
- he draws loosely in pencil and these lines are an integral part of the picture
- he reinforces the form with loose outlines in paint, no hard edges
- he suggests foliage but never paints individual leaves
- he paints with vigour
- composition is crucial, yet understated
I’ve found an excellent book called – Cézanne’s Composition by Erle Loran. He founded the Berkley Group and was a tutor to Diebenkorn. The book is new to me, but it is well-known and well regarded. (Although Roy Lichtenstein sent it up, but that doesn’t put me off). It provides an analysis and explanation of Cézanne’s approach which is eye-opening. I am looking at an exhibition catalogue called Finished Unfinished Cézanne which is also excellent at explaining his technique. So – now is time to put the theory into practice.
I’ve started with some sketches of a pear tree in our garden:
I’ve just finished a still life in watercolour. It doesn’t look much like a Cézanne, but it different to anything I’ve done before.
I’ve done some studies of some pine trees in Aylestone Hall gardens recently, so when the rain stops, I’ll go back out with my watercolours and give them the Cézanne treatment.
I liked this picture in the paper because of the play of light and shade and hot and cool colours, so I’ve had a go at painting it.
Stage one was to paint quickly and very loosely.
Then I added some more dark areas.
I think you need a lot of skill and dexterity and confidence to make this free approach look interesting. This just looks clumsy to me. Then I tried a watercolour version.
The final version, below, has more detail. I’ve worked over this painting about 5 times so now is the time to stop.
I’ve just finished a sketchbook – here are some selected drawings from it.