Kirsh writes: "In terms of the exhibition's theme one has to ask, why this subject then? And why such monumental paintings? The previous avante-garde had pointedly rejected the hierarchies of the Academy, which considered still lives and portraits beneath consideration, landscapes a lesser genre, and valued only history painting: paintings of figures depicting scenes from Biblical or Classical stories or actual events, such as Gericault's Raft of the Medusa. These have been called the grand machines of the French tradition, and only Manet attempted the genre (traditionally with the Execution of Maximilian, and in abased form with his Dejuner Sur l’Herbe and Olympia). This return to majestic history painting certainly raises the question of what turn-of-the-20th century painting should be and do, and where it fits within the history of art. The paintings by Gauguin, Cézanne and Matisse stand out in scale and ambition, exceptions within their oeuvres.
Jack Flam discusses the implications of Cézanne's "de-eroticized" approach to the figure in The Large Bathers (1906), part of the upcoming exhibition Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on view from June 20, 2012 - September 3, 2012.
Flam writes that "...Cézanne’s lack of finish created an extraordinarily suggestive spatial openness, one that redefined the esthetics and structure of painting, as well as what was permissible in the representation of the human figure. We can also perceive the discontinuities in Cézanne’s paintings as being important factors in their spiritual implications. If the solid forms in his paintings seem to be on the verge of dissolution and the empty spaces on the verge of becoming solidified, they reflect Cézanne’s intuitive understanding of the interchangeability of matter and energy and his intense awareness of the metaphysical void that underlies what we can know of the natural world."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.