Cezanne in Provence

I recently visited the National Gallery of Art to see this exhibit which runs through May 7, 2006. Although I like Cezanne's work and was happy to be spending the day at the NGA, I had not anticipated what kind of reaction I would have to the exhibit. Without the audiotour and my art history studies, I would have been disappointed. However, this was not my experience. The audiotour and placards on the walls filled in forgotten details of Cezanne's life, and I found the exhibition fresh and educational.

One of my favorite pieces was a portrait of Hortense, the woman who Cezanne eventually married and who bore him a son. It was stated by the audiotour historian that Cezanne's sisters did not care for her and made her time at L'Estaque unpleasant. The portrait conveys a formality that makes this apparent, while compositionally drawing you back into it.

Considerable wall space is given to Cezanne's quarry paintings, which I could not grasp on any level. This was also true of some of the paintings of trees and Chateau Noir. On the other hand, other the rare painting of a tree spoke volumes, especially the lone pine tree painting(s). I also greatly relished the room graphite and watercolor sketches which humanized the iconic painter.

All in all, the exhibit was time well spent. Great effort was made to collect similar themes for comparison and contrast, and this makes for contemplative inspection. The exhibit does what great art always accomplishes for me, leaves me in awe while making me believe that I too can go and accomplish great things.

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