Impressionism appeared as a rebellious art movement around the 1870s and was based on an entirely new and, at the time, experimental approach to the pictorial surface aimed to disrupt and change the inherited academic cannons. The group was heterogeneous and it gathered prolific artists now celebrated as the pioneers of modernism. Each had a particular artistic path, yet some of them are considered the most influential artists in art history. One of them certainly was Paul Cézanne.
The work of this honorable figure and father of Post-Impressionism is perceived as a bridge between the 19th-century concepts imposed by the academia and the modern way of thinking the painting. Bold and expressive brushstrokes, unusual color pallet, and different manner of composing the scene made Cézanne an innovator and sort of a predecessor of Avant-grade art, and especially Cubism. Alongside painting, the master also expressed himself quite successfully through other media, such as drawing and printmaking.
The current exhibition at The Whitworth focuses more closely on this aspect of his production by revealing works gifted and loaned to the gallery by a distinct cultural agent, collector, author and publisher Karsten Schubert.
The Whitworth holds the most impressive and the largest collection of Paul Cézanne works on paper in the United Kingdom. Alongside the gallery’s collection of late nineteenth-century French drawings with works by Seurat, Gauguin, Pissarro and Van Gogh, it forms a researchers' heaven.
Unlike his paintings, Cézanne’s drawings a much more personal due to the fact they were never exhibited throughout his lifetime and were practically unknown until they were discovered after his death.
The exhibition is formed on the notion of the process of reference and repetition which appears to be dominant in the artist’s work. On display are the works Milo of Croton (after Puget) and A Historical Biblical Scene: The Rape of Lucretia (c. 1865-69) which reflect his study of Old Masters, as well as later drawing After the Antiquity: Crouching Venus, c. 1894-97 which shows the progression in style and technique and relates to his renowned subject Five Bathers, c. 1879-82.
On view are also Cézanne's prints from his early etchings in 1873 through to his experiments with lithography in the 1890s; these show how the artist embraced and handled this technique. The visitors can see the copy of The Bathers (small plate) which was gifted to The Whitworth in its final colored state in 1927.
The exhibition also features other copies such as Marcantoni Raimondi’s one of Raphael’s The Last Judgement of Paris, and Michael Landy’s version of Cézanne’s Bathers, Untitled.
This particular survey of Paul Cézanne’s works on paper unmistakably gives a new insight into his artistic practice and his struggle and dedication to surpass his limitations and achieve different results.
Cézanne at the Whitworth is on view at The Whitworth in Manchester, UK until 1 March 2020.
Featured image: Paul Cézanne - The Bathers (Large Plate), 1896-97. Colour lithograph. Presented to the Whitworth by Karsten Schubert in 2019. All images courtesy The Whitworth.