L'œuvre by Emile Zola

Paul Cézanne, Paul Alexis reading to Émile Zola, 1869–1870, São Paulo Museum of Art

L'œuvre is a fictional account of Zola's friendship with Paul Cézanne and a fairly accurate portrayal of the Parisian art world in the mid 19th century. Zola and Cézanne grew up together in Aix-en-Provence, the model for Zola's Plassans, where Claude Lantier is born and receives his education. Like Cézanne, Claude Lantier is a revolutionary artist whose work is misunderstood by an art-going public hidebound by traditional subjects, techniques and representations. Many of the characteristics ascribed to Claude Lantier are a compound taken from the lives of several impressionist painters including Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, as well as Paul Cézanne. Zola's self-portrait can be seen in the character of the novelist Pierre Sandoz.

The book is often blamed for ending the friendship between Cézanne and Zola. The story of a groundbreaking artist unable to live up to his potential must have seemed intensely personal to Cézanne; no correspondence exists between the two after a letter in which Cézanne thanks Zola for sending him the novel.

The novel covers about 15 years, ending in 1870. Besides depicting the bohemian art world of 19th-century Paris, L'œuvre explores the rise of Realism, Naturalism and Impressionism in painting. Zola also looks at contemporary sculpture, literature, architecture, music and journalism, as well as the commodification of art. In creating his portrayal of the Parisian art world Zola includes several characters who are composites of real-life art world related figures; artists, writers, art dealers, and friends that he knew.

ZOLA 1902B.jpg
Emile Zola

Madame Cezanne: Muse or Object?

Paul Cézanne, Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair, about 1877 (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Hortense Fiquet is a mystery in the art world.

She sat for 29 paintings by her husband Paul Cezanne, more than any other model, and smiles in none of them. She was ignored by the French artist's family, friends, and hidden for 17 years before they got married, even though she was the mother of his only son Paul.

In this interview, art critic Deborah Solomon said Madame Cezanne is the opposite of what we think of as a muse She is always portrayed at home, with her hair parted in the middle and her dress buttoned up. She looks sad, bored. "She was not created for the male gaze, you cannot turn her into a sex symbol," she said. Solomon said she sees madame Cezanne as the the anti-Mona Lisa. "Mona Lisa has always intrigued us because nobody knows why she is smiling. But in the case of Madame Cezanne we don't know why she is frowning."

Cezanne and Fiquet met in Paris in 1869, when she was 19 and he was 30. The painter kept their relationship secret for 17 years, mostly out of fear of his banker father. It's believed he finally married her to make his son Paul a legitimate heir of the family fortune.

Philippe Cezanne, the great grandson of Paul and Hortense Cezanne, was in New York City for the opening of the show and he said Fiquet is now seen differently in the family. “I think she was much more important for Cezanne than usually, you know, art history says,” he said.

Cezanne said she took care of the painter, and accepted everything. “In Paris they changed about 20 times of apartment, or flat, so she never know where she was,” he said.

Solomon said the show is fascinating, because it offers a glimpse on the birth of modern art, through 20 years of paintings by Cezanne. "Over that time you can see how he was experimenting with what he called visual sensations. He wasn't interested in capturing her personality, rather he wanted to reflect how she appears to him as he changes angles and moves around a room," she said.

Solomon said the Madame Cezanne paintings show that Cezanne saw Fiquet more like an object than a muse, the opposite of Picasso's paintings of his last wife Jacqueline Roque. "Cezanne had no interest in glamorizing the individual, he was interested in form, rather than flesh," she said.

Paul Cézanne

Paul Cezanne - Self Portrait

Paul Cézanne French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th-century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century.

 Paul Cézanne was born to a wealthy family in Aix-en-Provence, France. His father was a successful banker whose riches assisted Cézanne throughout his life and his mother was a romantic who supported her son's career.

In 1852 Cézanne entered the Collège Bourbon where he met his good friends Émile Zola and Baptistin Baille. The three were famously close for a long period of time. After a classical education in Aix-en-Provence Paul Cézanne's father wished him to become a lawyer. However after attending law school for two years (whilst receiving art lessons) he could not bear the thought of continuing his education and left for Paris.

In Paris Paul Cézanne spent a large period of his time with Émile Zola, a French writer. He enrolled at the Académie Suisse, which is where he met his mentor, Camille Pissarro. After five months of trying to work as a painter in Paris, France, to no critical success, Cézanne returned to Aix-en-Provence at his father's request.

In his home town Paul Cézanne enrolled at the local art school and attempted to work as a banker but was also unsuccessful in this venture. Consequently in 1862 he returned to Paris to work as a painter. Disappointingly he failed the entrance exam to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts but continued to work between Paris and Aix-en-Provence and submitted many of his works to the Salon jury.

In 1869 Cézanne Met Mrie-Hortense Fiquet at an art school in Paris called Académie Suisse. Fiquet's main job was as a bookseller or bookbinder, but she combined this with part-time work as a model. They started a relationship and when the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870, they left Paris together for L'Estaque in the south of France. Afraid of offending his father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne, a well-to-do banker, and compromising his allowance, he went to great lengths to conceal his liaison with Fiquet. The existence of their child Paul, born in 1872, was kept from Louis-Auguste for some years.

Portrait of the Artist's Son - Paul Cezanne

Paul Cézanne's work was misunderstood by his contemporaries. A shy man who worked a great deal in Aix-en-Provence, the home town where he was born and raised, Cézanne moved Paris when he was young and, despite his father's wishes, pursued a career in art rather than law.

Cézanne was a modern artist whose work was a precursor for Cubism and Fauvism. His compositions were usually dark in tone and he often chose to work inside rather than en plein air.

Cézanne didn't receive critical acclaim until very late in his life and after his first solo exhibition. He never formed close friendships with many of his fellow artists but before he died there was a great deal of interest in his works.

Paul Cézanne's modern style and technique was avant-garde and therefore misunderstood for many years. Even the other breakthrough artists of his era, the Impressionists, were dismissive of Cézanne's progressive style and method. After the first Impressionist exhibition many of them petitioned to have him banned from the other shows because Cézanne's compositions were too controversial.

Camille Pissarro
Cézanne worked with thickly placed layers of paint and undefined forms and attempted to simplify everything into shapes that could be broken down. Although he was close with the Impressionist Camille Pissarro, and influenced by Pissarro's en plein air style of painting Cézanne was not an Impressionist. He was a highly modern artist who did not fit into any one category of painting style. His style was a precursor for the fauvism and cubism movements.

In 1872 Paul Cézanne was living in Pontoise, France with Hortense Fiquet and his newborn son Paul (whom his father did not know about). Cézanne was still enthusiastically working on his paintings and was spending time outside with his idol, Camille Pissarro.

In Pontoise Paul Cézanne met Dr Paul Gachet, who was an admirer of his work and thus spent the years of 1872 to 1874 living at Gachet's home in Auvers-sur-Oise.

In 1873 Cézanne met Vincent van Gogh and in 1874 he exhibited at the Impressionist's first showcase. Cézanne's work was highly criticized along with the Impressionist's paintings but Cezanne's paintings were disliked by the other painters too. Cézanne's compositions from this period of working close to Camille Pissarro reveal that he was slightly influenced by the Impressionist's en plein air style of painting.

In 1877 Cézanne showcased 16 of his paintings to a great deal of scorn from critics and vowed never again to show his work at an Impressionist's exhibition. Although still influenced by Pissarro's Impressionist style Cézanne continued to work inside his studio and didn't believe in always painting from nature.

Emile Zola

In March 1878, Cézanne's father found out about Hortense and threatened to cut Cézanne off financially, but, in September, he relented and decided to give him 400 francs for his family. 

In the early 1880s Cezanne started to move even further away from the Impressionist's style of painting. The year 1886 was a turning point for the family. Cézanne married Hortense and He fell out with Emile Zola because of his interpretation of Zola's novel, L'Oeuvre, and the two never saw each other again. In 1886 Cezanne married his mistress and inherited a large estate from his father, meaning he never had to worry about making money from his art.

In November 1895 Paul Cézanne held his first solo exhibition in Paris and Ambroise Vollard bought every artwork. He then moved to Aix-en-Provence permanently.

View of the 1904 Salon d'Automne, photograph by Ambroise Vollard, Salle Cézanne (Victor Choquet, Baigneuses, etc.)

In the early 1900s his work was shown all around Europe to wide critical acclaim but throughout his life Cézanne was shy and hostile towards other painters and he maintained this attitude. He died in October 1906 of pneumonia and is buried in the cemetery in Aix-en-Provence.

Sources: Wikipedia and Artable

Going down hard/the aging of the Boomers Part SEVEN – Where was I?


It is so important to stay curious as you reach your sixties and seventies.  The mind will continue to respond to fresh stimuli if it likes what it is contemplating. 

I had always dreamed about playing the violin so I began to study around my fiftieth year.  I had played the viola for a couple of years in my twenties, but one day in 1976 I loaned my bow to someone and they never returned it so I waited until 1996 to get another bow.  (A fine example of cracker-jack, not a moment to waste thinking.)

 At the time of initiating my latest fantasy I was employed by the San Diego Symphony as a plucked-string jack of all trades.  Guitar, banjo, mandolin, lute, whatever string instrument was needed I played.   Now all of my friends in the Orchestra thought I was completely nuts when I expressed in my desire to take up the fiddle. Typical comments sounded like this:

“Oh Art, you can’t be serious, you have to start when you’re five years old.  It’s impossible to achieve anything worthwhile on the violin if you start at Fifty.  Maybe you could take up fly fishing?”

Okay not to puff up my chest too big here but I started against common sense to seriously conquer to whatever degree I could, the ability to play decently on the violin.  This started in 1996 and in 2003, seven years later, I was standing on stage doing a two jazz violin concert with none other than Mark O’Connor, at his request! 

Now, you might ask, just how did this happen?  

Well first of all I have the discipline, well earned, of having been physically impaired most of my life.  I never cared for the term handicapped.  Polio at the age of five. This disease gave me patience and mucho will power as I plowed my way through life doing things that most physically deficient persons would never think to do.

So you may ask yourself was I that brave to go mountain climbing, or backpack by myself across Switzerland or be on the wrestling team in high school?  Absolutely not, I’m a devote coward, the secret is much simpler than that.   The very same formula that I used to get through life I applied to the violin.  Here it is: I was just too stupid to know any better.

There you have it straight from the horse’s mouth.  If you just don’t pay any attention to what is normally thought to be the tried and true method as if it were etched in granite, concerning what you dream about doing, then this formula, if it doesn’t get you killed, works every time.  The only person with the right to defeat you in anything you wish to do is yourself.  You can always attempt the ridiculous because you’ve always dreamed about it and if it doesn’t work out, several dry, vodka martinis consumed at your favorite bar will make everything fall into place.

I studied with a classical violinist who was extremely strict in practice and method and I had to check my ego at the front door of his house.  He demanded a lot of your time and if you didn’t come through up to his high standards then he let you know about it in the harshest of terms.  In other words I had to eat shit and think it was ice cream.  No problem, I wanted the play the fiddle and I knew he could pave the way.

Practice, practice, practice and then when you’re through for the day, think about it all night.  So that’s my story for this week.  This, however, was not what I had planned on talking about in this segment.

Where was I?

Rare Footage of Duke Ellington Highlights When Jazz and Baseball Were in Perfect Harmony

Duke Ellington and band members playing baseball in front of their segregated motel ("Astor Motel") while touring in Florida. (Charlotte Brooks, photographer, LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

Essayist Gerald Early once said: “When they study our civilization two thousand years from now, there will only be three things that Americans will be known for: the Constitution, baseball and jazz music. They’re the three most beautiful things Americans have ever created.” Whether or not you agree with those words, the next time you hear the word swing, you can think of two great, iconic American innovations.

Baseball and jazz both use swing as a noun and a verb, and in both fields swing involves time and timing. “But on a deeper level,” observed trombonist Alan Ferber, “baseball players and jazz musicians both strive for a perfect balance between disciplined practice and spontaneity.”

Both the game and the music were born in the United States. And their influences are known around the world. The sound emanating from the crack of the bat is as well loved as the long, soulful wail of a tenor saxophone. And significantly, both players require years of preparation, frequent practice, teamwork, motor memory and a high level of skill and expertise. The two all-American pursuits share other happy, historic connections. Both pursuits have relied heavily on 20th-century communications media to win audiences. And both have spread to many other countries.

The very word jazz may owe its origins to baseball. The first documented use of the word—meaning pep, or energy and vigor—occurred in a 1913 newspaper article about the San Francisco Seals. "The poor old Seals have lost their 'jazz' and don't know where to find it," said the article. "It's a fact. . .that the 'jazz,' the pepper, the old life, has been either lost or stolen, and that the San Francisco club of today is made up of jazzless Seals."

From the earliest days of jazz in New Orleans, baseball was popular with musicians. In 1931, trumpeter Louis Armstrong played in his hometown of New Orleans for three months, he took an interest in a local sandlot team dubbed “The Raggedy Nine” and bought them new uniforms and equipment. In thanks, they renamed themselves “Louis Armstrong’s Secret Nine.” At their games, Armstrong would throw out the first pitch. The Secret Nine’s gleaming white uniforms, however, proved much more impressive than their ball skills—many of the players refused to slide for fear of getting dirty.

Read more at Smithsonian Magazine

The Tree Whisperer

Marcello Mazzucchi, a retired forest ranger, stands in the Fiemme Valley in the Italian Alps. Renaissance luthiers such as Antonio Stradivari came here to handpick trees that would be crafted into the world's finest instruments.
Graziano Panfili for NPR

Antonio Stradivari, the master violin maker whose instruments sell for millions of dollars today, has been dead for nearly three centuries. Only 650 of his instruments are estimated to survive.

But the forest where the luthier got his lumber is alive and well. And thanks to the surprising teamwork of modern instrument makers and forest rangers, Stradivari's trees are doing better than ever.

These spruce trees have been growing for hundreds of years in the Fiemme Valley, the same corner of the Italian Alps where Renaissance luthiers such as Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati hand-picked the trees that would be turned into some of the world's finest instruments. Thanks to a serendipitous combination of climate and altitude, these have come to be called "Il Bosco Che Suona" — The Musical Woods.

Marcello Mazzucchi, a retired forest ranger with an uncanny knack for spotting timber that's ideal for instruments, walks among the trees, tapping on their trunks.

Mazzucchi's skill has led some to call him "The Tree Whisperer," but he laughs off that nickname. "I'm really more of a tree listener," he says. "I observe, I touch them, sometimes I even hug them. Look carefully and they'll tell you their life story, their traumas, their joys, everything. Such humble creatures."

He goes from trunk to trunk, crossing flawed candidates off his list.

"This one over here was struck by lightning," he says. "Who knows what kind of sound its violin would make?"

Then he finds a contender: "It shoots up perfectly straight. It's very cylindrical. No branches at the bottom. If you ask me, there's a violin trapped inside."

Mazzucchi takes out a manual drill called a borer, and twists it like a corkscrew through the bark. He listens carefully to the knocking sound the borer makes each time it hits a new tree ring.

Pulling out a core sample shaped like a pencil, he concludes the tree is an excellent specimen. A lumberjack chops down trees like this one and carts them to a lumberyard nearby, where the spruce is milled into sections.

Local instrument maker Cecilia Piazzi examines a piece of that milled wood, and declares it "magnificent."

"We use it for making the table — that's the beautiful part on the front of a violin or cello, with the soundholes on the surface," Piazzi says. "Yes, this piece is the right piece. I can tell just by flicking it."

It takes months to complete a single instrument, which can cost over $10,000 — a bargain, when you consider a Stradivarius that came from the same forest can go for over $10 million.

But it's enough to keep this community humming. The Fiemme Valley is one of Italy's most prosperous areas, thanks in large part to these musical woods. And it's going to stay that way because people like the Tree Whisperer take care of it.

"I've felled one million trees in my career," Mazzucchi says. "But in their place, 100 million more have grown up."

Stradivari, Amati and Guarneri made the world's most prized violins and cellos with wood from Italy's Fiemme Valley.

Before a tree hits the chopping block, Mazzucchi looks around to see if there are any tiny saplings struggling to grow nearby. If so, removing an adult tree will let more sun in and actually help the babies mature.

Bruno Cosignani, the head of the local forest service, explains that light is the limiting factor on tree growth.

"As soon as a tree falls down, those who were born and suffering in the shadows can start to grow more quickly," he says.

And centuries from now, those trees, too, might become musical instruments.

Reposted From NPR