A major cultural event of this year’s autumn season: the great Cézanne exhibition presented at Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe under the aegis of the State of Baden-Württemberg.
The French artist Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) produced a wealth of paintings, drawings and watercolours. Although his intention was to renew classical art, his tendency to abstraction makes him a forerunner of modern art. The exhibition at Kunsthalle Karlsruhe takes a fresh look at Cézanne’s bright landscapes, bathers, portraits and still lifes.
Earlier retrospectives have never shown Cézanne as an artist striving to uncover secrets and comprehend the world. The Kunsthalle Karlsruhe exhibition is the first to take a global approach to the artist’s work — the first that rejects a structure based on chronology or the various genres, instead exhibiting works of different types and epochs side by side, thus highlighting the links between Cézanne’s dramatic early works with figures and the serene, timeless character of his still lifes.
Although it is commonly assumed that Cézanne radically changed his style over the course of his career, the exhibition at Kunsthalle Karlsruhe underscores the continuity discernible in all phases of his work. It also stresses the importance of tradition and copying for this artist: Cézanne created probably more copies of works by old masters and contemporary painters than any other artist of his generation, and excelled in revisiting the originals and breathing new life into the details and figures that he reused for his own compositions.
Moreover, the exhibition reveals various ambiguities in Cézanne’s work, especially in his paintings that liquefy solid structures or petrify flowing forms. This is particularly evident in a work that figures a chair with a crumpled jacket on it that recalls the profile of Montagne Sainte-Victoire.
The rich exhibition presents about one hundred of major works by Cézanne in a radically new perspective and was made possible through loans from the following international museums: Musée d’Orsay (Paris), J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (Madrid), Metropolitan Museum and Museum of Modern Art (New York), National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), Pushkin Museum (Moscow), Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth) and Museu de Arte (São Paulo).