Cezanne and American Modernism


This afternoon I visited the Phoenix Art Museum to view their current exhibition Cezanne and American Modernism. I love Cezanne, especially his pieces featuring the bathers.

The exhibition, in general, was cohesive and comprehensive. It provided an overview of Cezanne’s work including portraiture, still lifes, and landscapes. It was also insightful in demonstrating his influence on American modernism and also on other beloved masters. From the very first piece you see, it is clear how Picasso’s cubism was inspired by his work.

There were several pieces by other artists that truly captured the color mood and compositional balance for which Cezanne is best known. However, the majority of “inspired” work felt like forced, less effective, copy-cat art. I value finding inspiration from others’ work, but mimicry does not interest me. One example of bringing Cezanne’s influence into his own artistic world, is sculptor George Segal’s Cezanne Still Life series. The body of Segal’s work includes rough, plaster sculptures, sometimes painted, but often left the recognizable, cool, white color. He takes Cezanne’s iconic apples and brings them to life in 3 dimensions.

George Segal sculpture of a Cezanne still life

Overall, I thought the exhibition was great. A few of my favorite non-Cezanne pieces from the show were Charles Demuth’s Houses and Pears and Plums, Patrick Henry Bruce’s Still Life (with Flower Pot and Fruit), and Leon Kroll’s Landscape - Two Rivers.