It was at the
initiative of artists themselves that the construction of Cézanne
as the father of modern art made its appearance. In France, the
painter was for a time affiliated with Impressionism, but no critic
close to that movement had made up his mind to support him. For
Joris-Karl Huysmans to deign to devote a few lines to him in Certains,
for example, Pissarro had to have recommended him repeatedly.
And yet, beyond France’s borders, the image of Cézanne
as the father of modern art was soon born. This paternity granted
to Cézanne emerged during the first three major international
exhibitions of modern art, the Sonderbund in Cologne, Roger Fry’s
two exhibitions at the Grafton Galleries, and the first Armory
Show of New York in 1913.
Impressionism as Francophobe Tool
Germany was the
first country to welcome Cézanne’s work within its
national collections, thanks to the buying policy of Hugo von
Tschudi. As early as June 1897, von Tschudi introduced the first
Cézanne purchased from Paul Durand-Ruel (Mill on the
Couleuvre at Pontoise) into the National Gallery in Berlin.
This event quickly took on an exemplary value for Impressionist
critics. A few years after the scandal of the Caillebotte bequest
and in a climate of pure political hatred between the two counties,
von Tschudi’s step was considered to be a forceful act in
favor of modern art. And yet the nationality of most of the Impressionist
artists bought by Tschudi did not escape the notice of Emperor
Wilhelm II, who was inclined to support propagandistic art dedicated
to the Hohenzollerns. Using art for nationalist ends and advocating
art for the German people, the Emperor, a fierce Francophobe,
was an opponent of modern art and used it to illustrate the deviancies
of the French mind, as in the following speech from 1901:
"The grand ideals have become for us, the German people,
enduring values, whereas for other peoples they have more or less
been lost. There no longer remains anyone but the German people,
who are in the first ranks of those called upon to keep watch
over these grand ideals, to cultivate them, to pursue them."(1)
Thanks to von
Tschudi’s audacity in presenting Impressionist works as
gifts to the crown, the Emperor accepted them so long as they
were not visible. But in his attempt to offer these works a central
location in the museum’s galleries, the museum director
completely reorganized the hanging. Influenced by certain members
of the Berlin aristocracy and after a misunderstanding with Tschudi,
the Emperor ordered these works taken down and forced the resignation
of the museum’s director in 1908.
Cézanne, Expressionist Painter: The Sonderbund
On May 24, 1912,
the fourth and most famous Sonderbund opened in Cologne. At the
start, the Sonderbund was a nonprofit organization founded in
1909 whose goal was the promotion of modern art, especially French
art, within exhibitions that brought modern artists together with
young German artists. Already during the second Sonderbund event,
which was entitled “Deutsche und Französisiche Kunst,”
Cézanne was represented by a few watercolors, but especially
three of Braque’s canvases from 1908 were exhibited, thereby
affirming already that the Cézanne’s posterity was
to be found in the main among those whom he had influenced.
On account, among
other reasons, of a separation of the art by nationality, five
concentric halls at the heart of the exhibition presented one-hundred-and-twenty-five
works by Van Gogh, twenty-six works by Cézanne, twenty-five
of Gauguin’s pictures, and sixteen works by Picasso in particular,
along with the German artists August Macke, Paul Klee, and Karl
Hofer. On this occasion, the emergence of the triumvirate of modernity--Van
Gogh, Cézanne, and Gauguin--testified to a glorification
of individuality that was to mark the history of modern art and
its exportation. It was no longer a matter of showing movements
but, rather, individualities who took part in these movements.
Moreover, immediately, a cultural adaptation took place: in Germany,
Cézanne became the precursor of Expressionism.
Cézanne as Leader: The Grafton Galleries
On November 8,
1910, the Manet and the Post-Impressionists exhibition opened
at the Grafton Galleries. In the context of England, which was
inclined to welcome the Impressionists but not yet ready to recognize
the upheaval of modernity and the various avant-gardes, the show
organized by Roger Fry in 1910 was of key importance. Again, the
nationality of the majority of the artists or of their dealer
was going to be an occasion for debate.
this exhibition began, the Exhibition of the Works of Modern
French Artists presented a number of French works at the
Public Art Gallery of Brighton under the leadership of Robert
Dell. Reactions to this show dedicated to French painters were
lively. For a few years already, the regular recognition and celebration
of French art had been perceived as an attack on England’s
young creative artists. Also, in direct reaction to this French
supremacy, which had been reinforced by Fry’s show, the
exhibition Septule and Racinists opened in December 1910
at the Chelsea Art Club, presenting only English artists. However,
as in the case of Germany, the “modern” organizers
supported artistic expressions from France without insisting on
the nationality of the artists, preferring to defend the idea
of a large international modern school.
Paradox is at
the heart of the very organization of Fry’s exhibition.
The entrance into the room and the show’s title affirmed
the superiority of modernity and the paternity granted to Manet.
Yet Fry placed at the beginning, just opposite the Bar aux
Folies Bergères, two Cézanne canvases--a still
life and his Hortense Fiquet in a Striped Skirt--so as
to underscore Cézanne’s advance in the modern adventure.
The first room presented all the Cézannes, twenty-one in
number, opposite eight Manets. The numerical supremacy of Manet’s
three “heirs” undermined Manet’s own importance
in the emergence of the movement. On the other hand, the presence
of Cézanne, proposed as central, and the visual similarities
between these three painters--Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van
Gogh–offered this position to the painter from Aix. The
arrangement of the exhibition displayed a sort of lineage, with
Cézanne appearing as the pivot between Manet and the Post-Impressionists.
In reality, Cézanne in 1910 had not yet gained recognition
in England. In proposing Manet as the leader in this demonstration
of modernism, Fry was choosing an artist who had by then become
entirely institutionalized. Cézanne received, moreover,
a quite lukewarm reception. As a critic like Sir William Blake
Richmond wrote, “Cézanne mistook his vocation; he
should have been a butcher.”(2)
On October 5,
1912, the second exhibition Fry organized at the Grafton Galleries
opened its doors. The impact of the first show had fostered the
gradual acceptance of a Post-Impressionist reading. This reading
was reinforced by Cézanne and Gauguin in November
1911 at the Stafford Gallery. Within the selection made by Fry,
Cézanne was affirmed as the father of the new school, thus
dethroning Manet. The balance of the exhibition was completely
different, since Gauguin and Van Gogh were themselves represented
only with some lithographs (except for one Van Gogh canvas), whereas
Cézanne appeared through twenty-five canvases and five
of Cézanne paintings to America was determined by one other
special feature. It was not the Impressionists, nor even Van Gogh
and Gauguin, who were perceived as innovators, but, rather, the
artists of the new generation.
Cézanne as Mentor [maître à penser]:
The New York Armory Show
The Armory Show
opened its doors for the first time in New York on February 17,
1913. It would then move in part to Chicago and Boston. Organized
by the artists Walter Pach, Walter Kuhn, and Arthur B. Davis who
had discovered Cézanne’s work thanks to their time
spent in Paris and to their regular visits to the Steins’
apartment, as well as to Matisse, some of whom had frequented
his academy, the exhibition followed the model of the Cologne
Sonderbund and Fry’s shows. More than 1,600 works were exhibited,
again divided up by nationality and still according to a subjective
process. Van Gogh, in particular, was presented as a French artist.
Gallery Q (one
of the four centrally-located rooms) was devoted entirely to Cézanne’s
art and to that of Van Gogh. Thirteen works by the master from
Aix, one watercolor, and lithographs on loan from Vollard were
presented.(3) At the entrance was found the Portrait of Gustave
Boyer, the sale price set at $4,000.00.(4)
genius no longer required proof in America, as was established
with the March 16, 1913 purchase of La Colline des pauvres
by the Metropolitan Museum at $6,700.00--the highest price
paid in the whole show. This institutional event was decisive
for Cézanne’s critical reception. At a time when
the avant-garde was creating scandal, its spiritual father was
entering into a museum. That it was the Metropolitan Museum that
acquired this canvas is not insignificant, in view of the time
spent by Roger Fry, Cézanne’s greatest admirer, as
chief curator for paintings in 1906.
In these major
exhibitions, it was French modernism that was being exported.
In the process, it underwent a cultural adaptation whose goal
was to show the liveliness of the local modernism in each country.
The fact that these three exhibitions were organized at the initiative
of artists themselves was not unrelated to this phenomenon. Moreover,
the proclamation of Cézanne as the father of modern art
affirmed the need to effect a cultural adaptation of this modernism;
each time, his critical fortune was, on the whole, similar, while
revealing at the same time particular national features. At first,
in the early 1900s, Cézanne was exported as an Impressionist.
Then, his special place within this same movement allowed him
to be removed therefrom so as to make him a precursor thereof
as well as an individual genius. In Germany, he became a master
of Expressionism, whereas in England, thanks to Fry’s writings,
he justified the label of Post-Impressionist, situated
between classicism and modernity. In the United States, he became
established as the father of modern art, as Alfred H. Barr’s
1936 diagram for the Cubism and Abstract Art exhibition
shows. Moreover, when MoMA opened its doors in 1929, it began
with Cézanne, whereas France some fifty years later, when
the Orsay Museum opened on December 9, 1986, almost ended its
selection of works with him. This museographic consideration offers
a very different reading of his influence. Through the proximity
of works by Matisse, Picasso, the avant-garde, and abstraction,
MoMA displayed a history of modern art in which Cézanne
existed as patriarch, whereas the presentation of these works
in relation to him as a nineteenth-century artist afforded him
the place of precursor, alongside the Impressionists, but tended
to minimize his impact on later generations.
Wilhelm II, “Ansprache zur Einweihung des Siegesallee”
(January 18, 1901), translated into French and reprinted in Paris-Berlin.
Rapports et contrastes France-Allemagne (Paris: Centre Georges
Pompidou, 1978), p. 726.
2. Sir William Blake Richmond, “Post-Impressionist,”
Morning Post, November 16, 1910: 5.
3. Catalogue of the International Exhibition
of Modern Art, Chicago, March 24-April 1, 1913 (Cézanne,
Paul): loan of Ambroise Vollard: two lithographs, Portrait
of Cézanne, Baigneuses, Colline des pauvres, Auvers-sur-Oise,
Portrait, and Melun; loaned by E. Druet: La
vielle femme au chapelet; loaned by J. Quinn: Portrait
of Mme Cézanne; loaned by Mrs. Montgomery Sears: Fleurs;
loaned by J. O Summer: Moissonneuse; loaned by Sir William
Van Horne: Portrait of Mme Cézanne; loan of Stephan
4. John Rewald, Cézanne and America:
Dealers, Collectors, Artists and Critics (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1989); on pp. 193-207, Rewald details how Cézanne’s
works were presented at the Armory Show.
J. B. Post-Impressionists in England: The Critical
Reception. London and New York: Routledge, 1988.
Brown, M. H. The Story of the Armory Show.
New York: The Joseph H. Hirschorn Foundation, 1963.
Bruneau, A.-P. “Aux sources du postimpressionnisme.
Les expositions de 1910 et 1912 aux Grafton Galleries de Londres.”
Revue de l’art, 113 (1996): 7-18.
Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Modern Art 1913.
3 Vols. New York: Arno Press, 1972.
Cézanne, Paul. Correspondance.
Paris: Grasset, 1978.
Gruetzner-Robins, Anna. Modern Art in Britain
1910-1914. London: Merrell Holberton, Barbican Art Gallery,
Manet and the Post-Impressionists. London, Clive Ballantyne,
Nicolson, Benedict. “Post-Impressionism
and Roger Fry.” Burlington Magazine, vol. 93 (January
Overbeck, Isabelle. Invented Traditions.
The Cologne Sonderbund Exhibition 1912. Regionalism, Nationalism
and Internationalism. MA thesis, Courtauld Institute, 2000.
Paris-Berlin. Rapports et contrastes France-Allemagne.
Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1978.
Paris-New York. Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, Gallimard,
Paul, Barbara. Hugo von Tschudi und die moderne
französische Kunst im Deutschen Kaiserreich. Mainz:
Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1993.
Pène du Bois, Guy. “The Spirit and
the Chronology of the Modern Movement.” Arts and Decoration,
Rewald, John. Cézanne and America:
Dealers, Collectors, Artists and Critics. Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1989.
Richmond, Sir William Blake. “Post-Impressionist.”
Morning Post, November 16, 1910: 5.
1 Paul Cézanne, Mill on the Couleuvre at Pontoise,
1881, Berlin, Nationalgalerie.
Cézanne, Still Life with Apples, 1893-1894,
3 Paul Cézanne, Hortense Fiquet in a Striped
Skirt, 1877, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts.
4 Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère,
1881-1882, London, Courtauld Institute Gallery. .
5 Armory Show, 1913, New York, floor plan of the
exhibition and distribution of the works of art by gallery.
Gallery A: American sculpture and Decorative
Gallery H: French paintings and Sculpture.
Matisse, Denis, Vuillard, Bonnard . . .
Gallery G: English, Irish, and German paintings
and drawings. Kaninsky, Walter Sickert . . .
Gallery E: American paintings. Walt Kuhnt,
Arthur B. Davies.
Gallery I: French paintings, watercolors
and drawings. Matisse, Picasso, Redon, Puvis de Chavanne.
Gallery P: French, English, Dutch, and American
paintings. Albert Pinkham Ryder, Daumier, Delacroix, Théodore
Rousseau, Monticelli, Puvis de Chavannes . . .
Gallery O: French paintings. Mary Cassatt,
Degas, Manet, Pissarro, Renoir, Seurat, Sisley, Toulouse-Lautrec.
Gallery R: French, English, and Swiss paintings.
Gauguin, Picasso, Puvis de Chavannes, Augustus John.
Gallery Q: Cézanne + Van Gogh.
6 Paul Cézanne, View of the Domaine Saint-Joseph, 1888-1890,
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
7 Armory Show, 1913, New York, view of Gallery Q.
8 Diagram of artistic movements, Alfred H. Barr, Museum of
Modern Art, 1936.