still Cézanne


For a certain generation of English artists, there have been enough Cézanne exhibitions to last more than one lifetime. These are the painters who had the gospel of Cézanne rammed down their gullets at art school, and who feel that the world has other things to offer. Roger Fry was the first great apostle of Cézanne in England, who at every opportunity lectured the unwary on the principles of ‘significant form’ and the consciousness-changing gifts of the master. Henry Tonks (who, as head of the Slade, resisted the siren call of modern art as forcefully as he could) caricatured him mercilessly in a 1922 painting called ‘The Unknown God’. Subtitled ‘Roger Fry Preaching the New Faith, Clive Bell Ringing the Bell’, it depicts the wild-eyed lecturer gesticulating madly while his accolyte chants ‘Cezannah, Cezannah’. Fry’s advocacy of Post-Impressionism went in and out of favour, but Cézanne’s theories became a mainstay of post-war art, and the central prop, for instance, of the Euston Road School. The influence was pervasive and it was against Cézanne’s distinctive palette of subtly modulated greens and blues that so many artists reaching maturity in the 1950s and 1960s rebelled.

more from The Spectator here.