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If These Apples Should Fall: Cézanne and the Present

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Yet a page later, “because the embedded propositions in Cézanne are so simple and primordial, and so entirely dependent on ironic feats of matter—of paint—to breathe life and death back into them, putting them into words is exactly betraying ‘what they have to say’ about material existence. As Schapiro noted in his text: “He was more than a teacher and friend to Cézanne; he was a second father. The publication critiques writings on the painter, from the essays of Clement Greenberg to the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The sugar bowl is both mundane and deeply weird, transmogrifying the otherwise organic fruits into a display of artificial entities.

In his effort to recover the artist’s strangeness, Clark turns to familiar Cézannian subjects (apples, mountains, cardplayers) and interlocutors (Roger Fry, Meyer Schapiro, Rilke).Chapter four makes a case for the peculiarly modern (as opposed to reactionary or revolutionary) quality of Cézanne’s peasant card players. Together with artworks of Gauguin and Van Gogh, his work featured in Manet and the Post-Impressionists, the show organised by Fry at London’s Grafton Galleries in 1910.

His first solo show, with Ambroise Vollard in Paris in 1895, marked a transition for the artist as he cultivated a unique modern style. Poetry serves as an elegant framing device for a book that arrives at the defining moment of the early 20th century, the great war. If These Apples Should Fall: Cézanne and the Present suggests a contemporaneity, even a topicality, that never comes. But as his book proceeds, Clark invokes this quality to articulate a broader skepticism toward art history’s historicism writ large. Art books have a special appeal: they are beautiful, collectable objects that are a pleasure to hold and be surrounded by.D. candidate in the art history program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. An illuminating analysis of the work of Paul Cézanne, one of the most influential painters in the history of modern art, by T. Clark addresses this strangeness head-on, examining the art of Pissarro, Matisse and others in relation to it. Even if we were shown, for example, details of the paintings highlighted with arrows and other purely visual means, we would still need verbal explanations. What ends up dropping out of the analysis is an appreciation of the utopian dimension, art’s promise of happiness, which should not be ignored for its period flavour.

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