Cezanne and Provence: The Painter in His Culture

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In 1886 Paul Cezanne let Paris permanently to settle in his native Aix-en-Provence. Nina M. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer argues that, far from an escapist venture like Gaugin's stay in Brittany or Monet's visits to Normandy, Cezanne's departure from Paris was a deliberate abandonment intimately connected with late-19th-century French regionalist politics. Like many of his childhood friends, Cezanne detested the homogenizing effects of modernism and bourgeois capitalism on the culture, people and landscapes of his beloved Provence. Turning away from the mainstream modernist aesthetic of his impressionist years, Cezanne sought instead to develop a new artistic tradition more evocative of his Provencal heritage. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer shows that Provence served as a distinct and defining cultural force that shaped all aspects of Cezanne's approach to representation, including subject matter, style, and technical treatment. For instance, his self-portraits and portraits of family members reflect a specifically Provencal sense of identity. And Cezanne's Provencal landscapes express an increasingly traditionalist style firmly grounded in details of local history and even geology. These landscapes, together with images of bathers, cardplayers and other figures, were key facets of Cezanne's imaginary reconstruction of Provence as primordial and idyllic - a modern French Arcadia. Highly original and lavishly illustrated, Cezanne and Provence gives us an entirely new Cezanne: no longer the quintessential icon of generic, depersonalized modernism, but instead a self-consciously provincial innovator of mainstream styles deeply influenced by Provencal culture, places and politics.