Cézanne is the exemplary artist-creator of the modern age. Revered and misunderstood by his peers, lauded by later generations as the ‘father of modern art’, he has long been a subject of fascination for artists and art lovers, writers, poets and philosophers.
A singular thinker and an uncompromising seeker after artistic truth, Cézanne channelled a large part of his wide-ranging intellect and ferocious wit into his letters. Over 250 examples survive, to family, friends and major figures from the literary and art worlds. Punctuated by exasperated theorizing and philosophical reflection, outbursts of creative ecstasy and melancholic confession, the letters reveal both the heroic and the all-too-human qualities of the greatest artist of modern times.
This new translation, by the acclaimed biographer Alex Danchev, is based on a thorough re-examination of the original manuscripts. It clears up decades of questionable scholarship and includes over twenty previously unpublished letters. The correspondence is richly annotated and cross-referenced to the current catalogue raisonné and other monuments of recent scholarship. More than seventy illustrations – sketches, autograph letters and key works discussed by Cézanne – add to the vivid presence of the artist on every page.
Danchev’s great achievement is to allow readers in English to hear Cézanne’s voice for the first time in his own idiomatic, idiosyncratic style. And he sounds rather different from the Cézanne we thought we knew – richer, wittier, wiser, more philosophical, more irascible, above all more fully human. The letters offer fresh perspectives on his artistic vision, politics, friendships, psychology, philosophy, literary tastes and classical frame of reference. They provide an intimate insight into the preoccupations and personality of a legend.