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Cezanne
Cover of Cezanne
Cezanne
A Life
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With 32-pages of full-color inserts, and black-and-white illustrations throughout.

Alex Danchev gives us the first comprehensive assessment of the revolutionary work and restless life of Paul Cézanne to be published in decades. One of the most influential painters of his time and beyond, Cézanne was the exemplary artist-creator of the modern age who changed the way we see the world.
 
With brisk intellect, rich documentation, and eighty-eight color and fifty-two black-and-white illustrations, Danchev tells the story of an artist who was originally considered a madman, a barbarian, and a sociopath. Beginning with the unsettled teenager in Aix, Danchev takes us through the trials of a painter who believed that art must be an expression of temperament but was tormented by self-doubt, who was rejected by the Salon for forty years, who sold nothing outside his immediate circle until his thirties, who had a family that he kept secret from his father until his forties, who had his first exhibition at the age of fifty-six—but who fiercely maintained his revolutionary beliefs. Danchev shows us how the beliefs Cézanne held and the life he led became the obsession and inspiration of artists, writers, poets, and philosophers from Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso to Samuel Beckett and Allen Ginsberg. A special feature of the book is a remarkable series of Cézanne’s self-portraits, reproduced in full color.
 
Cézanne is not only the fascinating life of a visionary artist and extraordinary human being but also a searching assessment of his ongoing influence in the artistic imagination of our time. A stunning portrait of a monumentally important artist, this is a biography not to be missed.

With 32-pages of full-color inserts, and black-and-white illustrations throughout.

Alex Danchev gives us the first comprehensive assessment of the revolutionary work and restless life of Paul Cézanne to be published in decades. One of the most influential painters of his time and beyond, Cézanne was the exemplary artist-creator of the modern age who changed the way we see the world.
 
With brisk intellect, rich documentation, and eighty-eight color and fifty-two black-and-white illustrations, Danchev tells the story of an artist who was originally considered a madman, a barbarian, and a sociopath. Beginning with the unsettled teenager in Aix, Danchev takes us through the trials of a painter who believed that art must be an expression of temperament but was tormented by self-doubt, who was rejected by the Salon for forty years, who sold nothing outside his immediate circle until his thirties, who had a family that he kept secret from his father until his forties, who had his first exhibition at the age of fifty-six—but who fiercely maintained his revolutionary beliefs. Danchev shows us how the beliefs Cézanne held and the life he led became the obsession and inspiration of artists, writers, poets, and philosophers from Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso to Samuel Beckett and Allen Ginsberg. A special feature of the book is a remarkable series of Cézanne’s self-portraits, reproduced in full color.
 
Cézanne is not only the fascinating life of a visionary artist and extraordinary human being but also a searching assessment of his ongoing influence in the artistic imagination of our time. A stunning portrait of a monumentally important artist, this is a biography not to be missed.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    1: The Dauber and the Scribbler

    The schoolboy Paul Cézanne was a sensitive brute. At thirteen, he was almost full-grown. He entered the Collège Bourbon in Aix as a half-boarder in the sixth grade in 1852. Half-boarders slept at home—in Cézanne’s case, a bourgeois house in the center of the town, a fifteen-minute walk away—but spent most of their waking hours at school, from seven in the morning (six in summer) until seven in the evening. Like many Aixois families, the Cézannes took advantage of the opportunity to combine public education and domestic education, as the school prospectus tactfully put it, for a modest three hundred francs per year, dinner and snack included. This arrangement continued for his first four years. For the last two he became a day boy. Whether he was by then sufficiently domesticated must be open to doubt.

    Intelligent, spirited, somewhat introverted, he was clever enough and sturdy enough to get by with the other boys. He boasted of translating one hundred Latin verses in no time at all, for the price of two sous. “I was a businessman, by Jove!” It was as commercial as he ever got. His ambitions were inarticulate. Among friends, he was eager for adventure: boys’ own pursuits, of a wholesome kind, spiced with poetry. Girls were out of bounds. They could be adored but not accosted. Making love meant serenading the object of one’s affections from afar—the ungovernable in search of the unattainable. For Cézanne, romantic fervor and libidinous impulse vied with conventional inhibition. He was unsure of himself, but Aix was his stamping ground. Here, he knew the form. He had the patter, or the patois. He spoke the language.

    In the year below was little Émile Zola, a boarder. Émile did not mix well. “My years in school were years of tears,” says the hero of his fiercely autobiographical first novel, La Confession de Claude (1865). “I had in me the pride of loving natures. I was unloved because I was unknown and I refused to make myself known.” Émile did not speak the language. He spoke with a lisp and a Parisian accent; his name sounded foreign; he was fatherless (Zola père died of pleurisy when Émile was six); his mother and grandmother came to visit him every day, in a parlor reserved for the purpose. In the bear pit of the boarders, Zola was a mama’s boy. He could not pass for Provençal. He did not care. The insult was cordially returned: they called him le Franciot (Frenchy). Among the bourgeois Aixois, Zola was different. They were fat, he was thin. Worse, he was poor. His early writing fairly pulsates with contempt for the good-for-nothing bourgeois. The last lines of the novels are often revealing. The last line of Le Ventre de Paris (1873) is the Cézanne character’s parting shot—one of the real Cézanne’s favorite expressions—a muttered imprecation against the plump of the world: “What bastards respectable people are!”

    Zola craved renown and respectability. At the Collège Bourbon, he was deprived of both. He was a boursier, a scholarship boy, living on charity. “Beggar!” the other boys taunted him. “Parasite!” Sometimes they beat him up. Sometimes they refused to speak to him altogether. “For the smallest thing, he was put in quarantine,” Cézanne remembered. “And really our friendship stemmed from that . . . from a thrashing I got from everyone in the playground, big and small, because I took no...

About the Author-
  • ALEX DANCHEV was educated at University College, Oxford; Trinity Hall, Cambridge; and King’s College London. He is the author of several highly acclaimed biographies, including Georges Braque. His most recent books are a collection of essays, On Art and War and Terror, and 100 Artists’ Manifestos. He writes regularly for The Times Literary Supplement and Times Higher Education. He has held fellowships at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.; St. Antony’s College, Oxford; and King’s College London. He is a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham. He lives in England.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 27, 2012
    Danchev's (On War and Art and Terror) biography of painter Paul Cézanne is both exhaustive and occasionally exhausting. The author tries to rein in his elusive subject with details ranging from Cézanne's childhood friendship with writer Emile Zola to descriptions of the artist's late-career workdays. The result reveals how difficult it is to sum up an artist whose work has drawn the accolades of everyone from Sir Kenneth Clark to Allen Ginsburg. Cézanne was both "a sensitive brute" as an Aix en Provence schoolboy and an aging madman. The art of his most productive years, observed sculptor Alberto Giacometti, "revolutionized the representation of the exterior world," undoing and expanding the perspective that painting had celebrated since the Renaissance. Cézanne in some respects was a forerunner of a modern artistic celebrity, whose persona, while tied to his extraordinary productivity, also assumed a life of its own, both in literature and the public imagination. Danchev is deeply versed in Cézanne as legend, man, and artist, and this account encompasses all of these. 32p full-color insert. Illus. Agent: Inkwell Management.

  • Kirkus

    September 1, 2012
    A formidable biography of the Father of Modern Art bound for the annals of academia. Danchev (International Relations/Univ. of Nottingham; On Art and War and Terror, 2009, etc.) has researched every facet and nuance of Paul Cezanne's life (1839-1906). His comfortable childhood in Provence, his years in Paris, where he was influenced by the Impressionists, and his dependence on the allowance from his father created the artist some suggested was "not all there." There is a wealth of information in the correspondence between the artist and his childhood friend, emile Zola, in which they parodied Virgil, joked in Latin and discussed Stendhal. Zola knew that Cezanne's art was a corner of nature seen through his own curious temmperammennte. The artist didn't paint things; he painted the effect they had on him. He saw colors as he read a book or looked at a person, understood the inner life of an object and let his brain rework that object, sometimes illuminating it, sometimes distorting it. Danchev rightly subscribes to the theory that understanding the man is important to understanding his work, and he attempts to parse Cezanne's psyche, digging into the background of nearly every author he discussed in his letters, quoting every writer who based a character on the man. Cezanne's work will influence artists and confuse patrons for decades to come, especially those who have the patience to study Danchev's comprehensive, occasionally ponderous tome. A fairly impressive achievement of a Sisyphean task--definitely a book to keep in your library.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from October 15, 2012
    In the first comprehensive twenty-first-century biography of Cezanne, a painter of profound and enduring influence, Danchev, biographer, too, of Georges Braque, vividly chronicles the artist's life by assiduously scrutinizing every imaginable source of illumination, from Cezanne's self-portraits to letters, diaries, newspapers, fiction, poems, photographs, and oft-told tales. We meet a young man from Aix who excelled in school; loved to read (Balzac and Flaubert, in particular); and forged a crucial friendship with classmate and future writer Emile Zola. A secret artist who tried to obey his father by attending law school, Cezanne fled to Paris instead and found a mentor in the equally uncompromising Pissarro. Quirky and brooding, proud and humble, solitary and relentless, appalled by pretense and fascinated by geology, Cezanne was endowed with the gift of divining the inner life in everything. Danchev is the first to portray Cezanne's wife, Hortense Fiquet, as the complex and significant individual she was. He also articulates with extraordinary clarity and feeling the technical, aesthetic, and moral qualities that made Cezanne a world-altering master, whose work was initially mocked as barbaric and who was 56 before he had his first one-man show. For the prodigious and visionary Cezanne, Danchev observes, Painting was truth telling or it was nothing.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

  • John Golding, author of Visions of the Modern "A major work of scholarship. With great sensitivity and genuine brio, Danchev paints a compelling portrait of the artist, who managed to overcome the demons that haunted him to transform himself into what many consider the greatest painter of his age. This is the best account to date of Cézanne's astonishing career--a book that will survive the test of time."
  • Frances Spalding, The Independent "In this first biography of Braque, Danchev has produced an extraordinary book which, though very different in style from John Richardson's Picasso or Hilary Spurling's Matisse, matches theirs in interest. Its brisk account is written with compelling urgency."
  • Peter Conrad, The Observer "The fun-filled partnership between Braque and Picasso is brought to glorious life in this new biography."
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