It’s a very strange picture. I sometimes thought it’s as if we are seeing it in a flash of lightening, it’s *boom*, it’s all of a sudden there and half a second from now we are not going to be able to see it. Also there is the tremendous amount of paint on that canvas. I mean he has really troweled on the paint to build up those forms of it; they almost have a three-dimensional quality to them.
There are a number of very conventional elements if you will, for example in traditional academic art of scenes from classical antiquity, French artists often made a distinction between the man’s body which is very ruddy, reddish etc. and the woman’s body which is very pale and white. This was a kind of academic code for making a distinction between men and women and in this picture Cézanne still uses that very old fashioned formula. And I think that’s one of the reasons that we start to wonder, well is he telling us a classical story, is this some kind of myth?
Another element are off to the left that group of naked women languoring on the bank of the river they seem completely oblivious to what’s going on, it isn’t bothering them in the slightest as if they were nymphs that have wandered in from ancient Greece. And then in the distance you see what might even be the first appearance in Cézanne’s art which would become one of the great motifs of his art and that is Mont Sainte-Victoire, this great table top kind of mountain from his native Provence, he could see it from where he lived. But here I think it is evoking for him the kind of timeless Mediterranean realm.
In brief the thing that’s so fascinating about this Cézanne is his sense of a timeless story being told and mixed with it the sense that Cézanne is almost on the edge of losing it.Back to parent stop