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Cezanne’s Sense of Color Essay

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Updated: Dec 20th, 2018

A renowned French artist, Paul Cezanne is considered as ‘The father of the modern art’ for his contribution to the evolution of painting. His inspiration was revealed in Paris during his frequent visits to the Louvre Museum (Turner 459). His paintings are considered a foundation and inspiration to the modern art. In fact, it has been argued that his intensive use of colors and compositions represents his originality in painting (Loran 26).

Cezanne’s unique way of color application in his paintings seems to develop a unique color application theory defined by a change in paradigm from the use of dark colors to an application of light colors (Sidlauskas 90). The purpose of this paper is to analyze some of Cezanne’s paintings with an aim of describing his sense of color in painting (Turner 459).

Arguably, one main factor that has contributed to his success as a father of modern painting is the ability to use color in a creative and skillful manner that reveals his sense of his world (Sidlauskas 84). Cezanne paves way for upcoming artists when he decided to give quality to his paintings as compared to the traditional ones (Bois and Krauss 32).

Cezanne’s 1896’s painting “Lake of Annecy” was an exhibition of use of color to depict nature at its best. He used a range of cool colors such as blue and green with deep tone and a combination of warm color to produce contrast, thus making some features look closer. In 1906, Cezanne exhibited an oil painting, which he called “the Bathers” (Turner 26). He distinguished his artwork from other small paintings by calling it “Large Bathers.” The painting took him seven years though it was never finished due to his death in 1906 (Shiff 54).

His understanding and use of color was also an inspiration from his wife, who had a great passion to do artwork of her master. Cezanne wanted to articulate a painting meaning with color. An example is the painting of his wife Fiquet Cezanne he used color to give different conception to her features (Sidlauskas 90).

In his artwork, Cezanne used color to signify depth and surface at once, mobility and skin revelatory suited a young man nicknamed “Iecorche”. Although Cezanne’s “Mont St. Victoire” painting portrays a traditional landscape, the use of color technique makes it complete revolutionary. His impressionism is extreme as he uses color patches to convey mountains cape atmosphere.

This is an amazing work as the bluish tint color portrays a thick atmosphere. The use of color to portray fruits and glassware objects in “Compotier, Pitcher and Fruit” gives shadows and textures and creates a realistic perception as the fruits looks as they are falling off the table. In his Harlequin painting, Cezanne uses blue color to symbolize mood on how Picasso lean on his elbow (Bois and Krauss 35).

According to Loran (41), Cezanne’s unique way of color application in his paintings seem to develop a unique color application theory defined by a change in paradigm from these use of dark colors to an application of light colors.

According to Bleicher (122), this shift in paradigm provides some evidence of the influence that impressionism had on the works of several artists in the 19th century. In the initial stages of his career, Cezanne used flat brushstrokes. However, he progressively changed to the use of light strokes in which he added light and dark tones to produce a three-dimensional effect (Bois and Krauss 32).

His ability to use both dark and light colors to come up with three dimension effect is one of the fact that makes Cezanne’s work appears quite unique from those of other impressionist painters of the time (Badt 151). It is also worth noting that Cezanne’s initial strokes were usually based on simple primary colors. Rather than using a palette, Cezanne used canvas. This additional aspect makes Cezanne much different from the rest of his impressionist colleagues.

The shift in paradigm from focus on dark colors to lighter colors in his later part of career is explained by his shift of focus from mixing and blending of colors. Accordingly, his works increasingly became unique in that they appeared as patches of distinct colors.

For example, an analysis of his famous painting “Mont St. Victoire” reveals that although it is based on traditional landscape, it is equally applies revolutionary technique developed by patches of color that convey a true atmosphere of mountain (Merleau 62). Some scholars have argued that with this style of color use, Cezanne must have taken impressionism to the extreme.

Secondly, it is worth noting that in this piece of work, Cezanne has shows his amazing ability and skills by using blue-ish tint in his painting to portray a thick atmosphere. In fact, in this painting, Cezanne has moved towards a more architectural design rather than an imaginary painting. Riviere and Schnerb recall that Cezanne was very particular when working on planar surfaces like walls, where he made the look spherical by modulation of color (Bois and Krauss 35).

In fact, this is a common style among the cubist artists (Ione 59). According to Becks-Malorny (36), this method of color application in painting was popular among the cubist painters, which makes some scholars argue on whether Cezanne was an impressionist, a post-impressionist or a Cubist painter. However, he makes use of his skills and knowledge to ensure that both depth and perspective are present in his paintings. This is actually a researchable aspect within the context of his theory of color application (Sidlauskas 88).

Cezanne uses color in its three dimensions to favor different contrasts of hue to re-assert different structural painting qualities (Stewart 451). He had the opinion that surfaces that are near the viewer should have pure color. This hints how he uses color to build form. Cezanne used three dimensional model that is value to illustrated by light-dark color, hue using varying wavelength of green, red, yellow and other colors and saturation where he applied purity of colors.

These dimensions of colors he used in combination with four forms of contrast separately or mixed thus building form and space at the same time intensifying lighting effects. Cezanne at the same time used a warm-cool contrast, which is a function of hue.

According to Loran (83), Cezanne’s painting can easily be analysis used in terms of black and white illustrations of value. In his analysis “Cezanne’s compositions”, Loran argues that the paintings by Cezanne are quite brilliant due to his style of color application (Loran 94). Nevertheless, it is arguable that Loran overlooked the fact that Cezanne’s work was developed from a composition of sophisticated application of value, saturation as well as hue.

Cezanne’s painting, “naked female”, presents the evidence of density and tension (Loran 73). He grouped the naked women and shaped them like trees. A triangular shaped view gives focus to the lake and the bathers seem to be calmed under the trees. The painting “Large Bathers” gives the reminiscence of other artist’s work such as Paul Ruben and Titian with landscapes, trees and the river (Dorival 19).

The calmness of the water and the dawdling movement of the figures gives a mythically and an imaginary element to Cezanne’s work. Though Cezanne followed no stylish paintings, which did not match with the methods of the nineteenth century, he was in an attempt to come up with a timeless painting (Stewart 453).

According to Dorival (55), the paintings “large Bathers” are quite outstanding paintings due to their wide spaces, color use and figures especially on the right side seem to be well- figured. In addition, Cezanne’s use of space is revealed by the whirling blue, bright, and clear sky. Cézanne used lines to give a well-outlined shape of the women. In addition, lines created and emphasized movement, which makes one to hold the movement of the eyes. Cezanne seems to have a better understanding of the viewer movements.

Cezanne’s work is based on nature and his own imagination especially on the figure paintings. He was also fascinated by the human figure, which in his painting portrays un-sensual and statuesque showing his personal classicism interpretation. The painting shows how female figures can add an aesthetic value and harmony to the landscape (Becks-Malorny 88).

Cezanne’s work on the Large Bathers shows a well-developed architectural combination of rhythm, format and color. By pairing the spots symmetries of object is created resulting in a secret life to a static object. In addition, use of natural and human forms brings out weight and dignity in his work (Stewart 453).

According to Dorival (55), Cézannes works “Large Bathers” are surrounded by trees on their sides and each nude female is lend interiorly thus making a triangular shape which frames the lake. This gave the naked women a pre-arranged space. This composition gives Bathers various poses through bending to fit Cezanne’s art composition. He tried to create space between objects, which are closer from the far ones (Dorival 64).

This spacing could be seen through perspective though it depended on the viewer’s eye when standing on one place .He accounted his natural vision through art representation since nature cannot be reproduced through art. Cezanne expressed his emotion and feeling in his drawing, in his paining of his wife, he used pale coral pigment to draw her wife face giving it a distinct consistent feature (Sidlauskas 93).

Cezanne used dark and light blue colors in his Bathers. The paintings show how Cezanne toned his palette down. He also eliminated some colors and reduced the hue intensity to tones of green, blue and ochre. His tree trunks were painted with oak brown in addition to golden tones. Skin color of the bathers showed a complimentary color with brown hair. Back and the hips of the women are painted dark brown giving them a female shape (Loran 83).

Cezanne’s Bathers seem to be well illuminated especially on the right side hence little light reaching the bathers on their right hand side. He used natural light in creating shadow patterns, which in turn creates a spectacular outcome. In this painting, the light is seen hitting directly on the crouching down bather on the left elbow of the woman and on the lower sides of her thigh.

hough the waters seem to be calm, they look troubled by the waves. Cezanne’s use of a brush stroke gives the texture to his work. The painting appears unfinished leaving trails of the painting patterns. Thick coats of paint give the Large Bathers a fog of green and blue colors (Loran 91). In addition, the time that Cezanne spent in working out the painting produces shifts in point of view.

Although Cezanne did not finish his work, he left a spectacular artwork, which inspires many upcoming artists. Cezanne created a sense of distance by using parallel brush marks that added depth. In his work “Montagne Saint Victoire”, Cezanne painted a mountain shape in the middle and a stylised tree to the left incorporating shades. He added pink and blue colours with stretches of pale brown (Loran 118).

In his painting, “The Blue Vase”, Cezanne created a still life picture by using colours that are both luminous and high-keyed in the object as well as in the background (Loran 122). Despite the use of greater brightness, the sensitiveness creation of the small difference coupled with the richness of hues brought about a refined and gradated tones.

He uses blue colour to create mood giving a differing quality in the background and contrast with warmer tones used in flowers and smaller units. Cezanne’s work, which is rich in colour, employs variety of colour relationship to contrast, coolness, mood and harmony.

In a letter to Emile Bernard of April 1904, Cezanne gave his personal view on the use of color in his paintings. In this letter, he says that one cannot separate drawing and color, as long as the painter is drawing. According to him, the more the amount of color applied in a painting, the more exact is the painting.

Color brings richness to a painting, which in turn makes the form to attain its fullness (Bois and Krauss 34). He further argues that the secret of modeling and drawing is the contrast achieved through color tines. From this analysis, it is worth arguing that one main factor that has contributed to his success as a father of modern painting is the ability to use color in a creative and skillful manner that reveals his sense of his world.

Works Cited

Badt, Kurt. The Art of Cézanne. Berkeley, CA: University of California press, 2010. Print.

Becks-Malorny, Ulrike. Cezanne. Ediz. Inglese. London, UK: Taschen, 2009. Print.

Bleicher, Steven. Contemporary Color: Theory & Use. Mason, OH: Cengage learning, 2011. Print.

Bois, Yve-Alain and Rosalind Krauss. “Cézanne: Words and Deeds”. October 84.1(1998): 31-43

Dorival, Bernard. Paul Cézanne. New York: Continental Book Center, 2005. Print.

Ione, A. “An inquiry into Paul Cezanne: The role of the artist in studies of perception and consciousness”. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 7.9 (2000): 57-74(18). Print.

Loran, Erle. Cézannes Composition: Analysis of His Form with Diagrams and Photographs of His Motifs. Berkeley, CA: University of California press, 2005. Print.

Merleau, Maurice. The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Philosophy and Painting. Northwestern university press, 2008. Print.

Shiff, Richard. Cezanne and the End of Impressionism: A Study of the Theory, Technique, and Critical Evaluation of Modern Art. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001. Print.

Sidlauskas, Susan. Cezanne’s Other: The Portraits of Hortense. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2009. Print.

Stewart, Jack. “Color in To the Lighthouse.” Twentieth Century Literature 31.4 (2005): 438-458. Print.

Turner, Norman. “Cézanne, Wagner, Modulation.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 56.4 (1998): 353-364. Print.

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