Again here is Christopher Riopelle, curator of post-1800 paintings at the London National Gallery and exhibition co-curator.
Cézanne, whom we think of for the enormously grand and placid landscapes and still-life’s of his later years. Rich formal experiments in picture making. Well, he started out in a very different way, he started out coming up from the south of France from Provence as this kind of violent uncontrolled person painting both stylistically in a very brutal way, I mean he really trowels the paint on, but also psychologically all of his early pictures are haunted by this kind of unremitting violence. It’s as if psychologically he couldn’t control himself.
Here you see him in 67 at the height of his, the most violent imagination and very aggressive manner of painting, but at the same time, an artist like Delacroix would recognize himself in it because Delacroix himself had painted often very violent and sexually fraught subject matter. Cézanne admired him enormously and also Delacroix was a painter who knew his classical antiquity. Cézanne also admired this very much in him, and in a picture like The Rape it’s not just a rape scene, it’s as if we are being told a story from classical antiquity. We can’t quite put our finger on what the story is, but it has an air of timelessness to it at the same time. I think with a picture like this, we see a young and very struggling artist and also one full of passion and intensity recognizing in Delacroix his scenes of tumult and violence a way forward an artist who knew how to handle things like that. And Cézanne is in the exhibition to show an artist who would go on to very, very great things, struggling, and that sense of struggle is very important, struggling with Delacroix’s legacy.
What was Cézanne’s state of mind when making this painting? The Green button will lead you to through some of his choices in this very strange picture.