Cézanne: In and Out of Time
French painter Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) found complexity in the world around him and engaged with it through his art. His landscapes appear impossible to enter, his still lifes tilt forward at dizzying angles, and the sitters in his portraits withhold attention. Though he was a peer of the Impressionists, sometimes participating in their exhibitions and working alongside them, Cézanne’s vision and art departs from theirs in ways both subtle and startling.
Featuring 12 paintings by Cézanne in conversation with work by Degas, Pissarro, Renoir, and others, “Cézanne: In and Out of Time” looks at the trailblazing artist and considers what sets him apart. Similar subject matter—portraits, landscapes, and still lifes—demonstrates a shared commitment between Cézanne and his contemporaries to observing the material world. But Cézanne avoided depicting the fleeting aspects of nature that absorbed the Impressionists, choosing instead to investigate space and form, observing and working in a protracted, unhurried way.
Of his process, Cézanne once noted, “I am progressing very slowly, for nature reveals itself to me in very complex forms.” His work rewards careful looking, much like the methodical manner required to make it. With its compressed view and its subject’s blank expression, the distinctly modern Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair (about 1877) appears at once intimate and distant. The landscape Turn in the Road (about 1881) is a complex arrangement of shapes and spaces that challenges viewers’ perceptions. And Still Life with Peaches and Pears (about 1885–87)—with a bowl of fruit viewed from above and a nearby pear seen from the side, casting its shadow to the right—seems to capture two perspectives at once. Cézanne’s work conveys a constant push–pull of presence and absence, space and surface, time and timelessness.
Seeing Cézanne’s paintings alongside those of his peers highlights what made his art distinctive when it was new—and what makes it so fascinating now.