“The truth in painting is signed Cezanne”

Jacques Derrida started deconstruction of art theory in his  “La Verita en Peinture” (1978) by saying: “The truth in painting is signed Cezanne…The truth in painting was always something owed. Cezanne promised to pay up: “I owe you the truth in painting and I will tell it to you” (letter to Bernard, 1905)”.

However, there is no deconstruction of Cezanne’s art in Derrida’s book. And is there any way to deconstruct firm structures of Cezanne’s landscapes and his “ancient Egyptian” geometry of portraits and still lives, that were so different to friable Salon art  and to weightlessness of Impressionism?

“May I repeat what I told you here: treat nature by means of cylinder, the sphere, the cone, everything brought into proper perspective, so that each side of an object or a plane is directed towards a central point”, – Cezanne wrote in a letter in 1904, that sounds like the truth in painting, that he promised to tell.

He wrote about the fullness of  existence of each object, and it reminds the slogan of phenomenologist Husserl:”To the things themselves!”

The fullness of existence of objects in Cezanne’s design and tension of geometry was noted by Picasso: “Cezanne would never have interested me a bit if he had lived and thought as Emile Blanche, even if the apple he painted was ten times more beautiful. What forces our interest- is Cezanne’s anxiety, that’s Cezanne’s lesson”. 

This lesson of anxiety and equilibrium was also learned by French literature of modernism. We “hear” it in Marcel Proust’s descriptions of a still life: “sought to find again in reality, I cherished as though for their poetic beauty, the broken gestures of the knives still lying across one another, the swollen convexity of a discarded napkin into which the sun introduced a patch of yellow velvet, the half empty glass which thus showed to greater advantage the noble sweep of its curved sides and, in the heart of its translucent crystal, clear as frozen daylight, .. the displacement of solid objects, the transmutation of liquids by the effect of light and shade, the shifting colors of the plums which passed from green to blue to golden yellow in the half-plundered dish, the promenade of the antiquated chairs that came twice daily to take their places round the white cloth spread on the table as on an altar at which were celebrated the rites of the palate.. I tried to find beauty there where I had never imagined before that it could exist, in the most ordinary things, in the profundities of “still life.” (“In search of lost time”)

The exhibition “Paul Cezanne, Le Chant de la terre” at Foundation Gianadda in  Martigny is opened daily, from 9 am to 19 pm,  till 19th November, 2017


written by Irina  Vernichenko