Abstract Critical

On Cézanne, Part One: JK Huysmans

“Fully lighted, in porcelain fruit dishes or on white tablecloths, are pears and apples, rough, misshapen, formed with a trowel, corrected with the thrust of the thumb. At close range: a furious plastering on of vermilion and yellow, green and blue; to the side, in dabs of paint, full, flavourful, inviting fruit destined for the showcases of Chevet.

And hitherto unacknowledged truths become apparent; strange and real hues, singularly authentic spots, nuances [of glazes lightly applied over] the linen, areas occasioned  by the shadows of the curving fruit that spread into plausible and charming bluish areas make these canvases all the more innovative to the extent that one recalls the usual still lives dashed off to become muddy repoussoirs detaching themselves from unintelligible backgrounds.

Then, there are sketches of plein air landscapes, attempts left in limbo, pictorial essays whose freshness is spoiled by retouching, childish and barbaric daubs, and finally an unsettling lack of equilibrium: houses leaning to one side like drunkards, lopsided fruit in lurching pots, nude bathers surrounded by insane lines… [all] for the greater glory of the eyes endowed with the passionate ardour of a Delacroix without the visual refinement or a discriminating touch, whipped by a frenzy of spoiled colours, screaming, in bold relief, on a burdened canvas that bends!”

Originally from Joris-Karl Huysmans, ‘Trois peintres – Cézanne’, La Cravache parisienne, 4 August 1888, excerpted in Henri Dorra (ed), Symbolist Art Theories: A Critical Anthology, University of California Press, 1994