Cézanne Portraits

Clar05_4002_01T.J. Clark at the LRB:

So finally I am on the side of the extremists, the Becketts and Sedlmayrs. ‘Loss of world’ is in question in Cézanne’s art, because – Lawrence in particular insists on this – the artist knows that ‘world’ has become, or is fast becoming, a cliché. The more talk of Gemeinschaft, the deeper each individual’s isolation. There seems, to put it baldly, no good alternative to the Sedlmayr view, or at least to its basic assumption. Certainly the idea that Cézanne’s approach to picture-making is essentially technical and ‘objective’, locked in a painter’s preserve (the Charles Morice proposal, which will never die), is useless. It offers false comfort. Cézanne is not in the least ‘detached’ from his sitters, he is relentlessly intimate with them. It is what he proposes intimacy to be that is the terror. He seems to have wanted, maybe to have achieved – with Madame Cézanne, whom he did not live with, with the various Parisian men he distrusted, with the Aixois peasants he paid to sit still – an existence with others that did not depend on an exchange of insides. A behaviour without the pejorative ‘behaviourism’ attached to it. ‘Material of a strictly peculiar order, incommensurable with all human expressions whatsoever.’

There is a cluster of poems by Wallace Stevens, mostly from the 1940s, that seems to me helpful. I think they were written with Cézanne in mind. ‘Less and Less Human, O Savage Spirit’ is central, and especially the poem’s conviction that ‘It is the human that is the alien,/The human that has no cousin in the moon.

more here.