Postimpressionism: Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) and Georges Seurat (1859-61)

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  • Topic: Post-Impressionism, Pointillism, Impressionism
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Art Appreciation Essay Assignment #2
Postimpressionism: Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) and Georges Seurat (1859-61) Postimpressionism, an umbrella term coined by British art critic Roger Fry, refers to innovative group of artist working in France in the late 19th- early 20th centuries. Schooled in Impressionisms, these artists grew dissatisfied with the passive, formless registration of perceptual experience practiced by the Impressionists and took their art into different directions. Although crediting the Impressionists with the use of pure brilliant colors and light, they strove to express emotions rather than optical impressions. As Harvard Arnason notes: “Instead, they sought to discover, or recover, a new and more complete reality, one that would encompass the inner world of mind and spirit as well as the outer world of physical substance and sensation” (Arnason 64). There are no clearly defined elements of style and subject matter in Post-Impressionism. However, the art critics agree that the emphasis on combination of simplified colors, accent on formal quality and used by the artists techniques achieve a renewed aesthetic sense as well as abstract tendencies in Postimpressionist paintings. Generally, Post-Impressionism is defined as more formal and more emotionally charged comparing to Impressionisms. My research interests lies in Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) and Georges Seurat (1859-61) Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), an enigmatic and tragic figure of the art world, achieved astonishing posthumous success. Acknowledged as a great constructor and colorists, one of the most penetrating observers and one of the subtlest minds, he was an isolated, prone to depression man of a sometime violent disposition. On many occasions he used to say: “Life is fearful” and “Nothing is easy” (Johnson 606). Cézanne exhibited with the Impressionists but refused to identify himself with the movement. He considered Impressionism being “too pretty and superficial, adding “I want to make of Impressionism something solid and enduring like the art in museums” (Johnson 604). Lack of three-dimensional depth in paintings led him to consider Impressionism formless and insubstantial, lacking qualities of Western paintings. Although paying respect to old masters (he was a serious student of art of the past), he did not intend to imitate them. His pursuit was a kind of expression based on, but different from, that of the Impressionists. Few artists loved painting and nature more than Cezanne. Substantial fortune from his wealthy banker father allowed Cezanne to retire to his native Aix-en-Provence and fully focus on art rather than strive for commercial success. Nature was his search for solace and perfection and his primary focus. Portraits, still life and nudes were also among his subjects. In all of them, he was concerned with the re-creation, the realization, of the scene, the object, or the person. "All things, particularly in art, are theory developed and applied in contact with nature. Painting is not only to copy the object, it is to seize a harmony between numerous relations”, stated Cezanne (articons.com). In his view, deep emotional experience is primal in creative process: it renders subject with intensity the intellect joins in later to create finished work of art. As one critic states “he talked of humanizing a landscape through the exercise of an artist's feelings” (articons.com). Through his use of color and space combination Cezanne achieved an extraordinary degree of landscape expressiveness. He is known for geometric view of objects and spatial analysis: “Deal with nature as cylinders, spheres and cones, all placed in perspective so that each aspect of an object or plane goes towards a central point” (Johnson 604). The artist was not thinking of these geometric shapes as the end results. It was an implication of the final abstraction into which he wanted to translate the images. The Cubists, in fact,...
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