Cezanne aspired to reconcile the experience of biological vision with the traditions of art history (that is the historical forms and iconology of studio painting). He intended to put that reconciliation on canvas. He aimed for the compositional unity of Poussin’s 17th century studio painting but coupled to the sensual experience of biological vision in front of nature (on location, or as he would have said, ” Sur le motif.”) He hoped his new paintings would give the experience of seeing a particular place from the point of view of a particular personality. If he could do that, then he would have accomplished art’s most difficult paradox. He saw this mission as the future of art.
When I took this photo in the Bibemus Quarry just outside of Aix-En-Provence I thought of his painting there. Cezanne hiked to this quarry from his studio in Aix. Notice the differences between the painting and the photograph of the scene. The large cut rock in the upper right corner acts as a framing curtain for the landscape beyond. Remember those traditional portraits with the posed figure standing beside a large framing curved curtain. Look at his trees. They are not decorated with faux foliage but rather, they are sculpted planes and volumes in paint. He makes no effort at illusion but tries instead to capture a united collection of volumes with movement. His painted effects are more tangible than the filigree of texture offered by the photographed trees. Observe the unifying colors in the rock, the earth and the trees of his painting. Cezanne was building a unity, not a compilation of diverse bits of information.