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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cezanne by Hajo Duchting

Book 29, Cezanne by Hajo Duchting was, in a word, rubbish! I've never read 220 pages that told me less about the subject matter than this book did.

I honestly could have learned more about Cezanne by reading his Wikipedia entry than Hajo Duchting's book taught me. The problem with it is it jumps straight in at the deep end and assumes all sorts of knowledge about art, French literature and the man himself. I had none of this knowledge so it washed over me.

But the language itself was in part flowery babble. I don't know whether this is intended to be a "coffee table" book that nobody reads, instead just flicks through and looks at the pictures, but for me I just wanted to read and understand the text and glance at the pictures.

Here's an example of Hajo Duchting's "babble" picked at random from page 85:

His work of the 1870s differed from the earlier period in being the product of new discipline: sophisticated composition and a lighter palette showed that a maturer Cezanne had learned the lessons of Pontoise well. His statements were fundamentally the same though. However various Cezanne's subjects and stylistic phrases there was a psychodynamic constant that made its presence felt throughout, objective though he might aim to be. That constant was the reconciliation of opposites, the mythic union, the longed-for purification of a besmirched existence full of conflict into a new crystal-clear unity which would enfold what was once divided and discrete in an all-embracing higher order.

I'm sorry but no matter how many times and how carefully I read passages like this, which abound through the book, I could never tell you what they meant. Anyone who understands his point I bow deeply before.

Another irritation about Cezanne is that the pictures the text refers to are often many pages back or forwards from the text itself. It's like two people have cobbled together this book and never spoken about it.

Anyway Cezanne gets 2 out of 10, the text gets 1 and the pictures 3!

Now Having read my rant it leads me nicely to my next book, number 30, How to Look at a Painting by Fran├žoise Barbe-Gall.

I have written before about my frustration with art. I want to get it, I am prepared to put the effort in, but with many pictures I am left feeling empty. Of the 100 or so pictures in the Cezanne book for example I would have said I got nothing whatsoever from 95+ of them, and disliked quite a few.

What am I doing wrong? I can listen to the great pieces of music from the past and enjoy them without having more than a rudimentary knowledge of music, why can I not do the same with art? Hopefully How to Look at a Painting will provide the answer!

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