Friday, April 13, 2007

The Bridge at Maincy

Cézanne famously aimed to ‘re-do Poussin over again according to nature’. Comparing the two painters, Richard Verdi has written that Poussin’s classicism ‘evolved in the studio, through the joint efforts of the intellect and imagination, Cézanne’s had to be won directly from nature. In this respect it was a kind of instinctive – or ‘spontaneous’ – classicism, one which was found rather than made.’ In The Bridge at Maincy (1879) for example, the vividness of the foliage is matched by the solid structure of bridge and trees.

Paul Cézanne, The Bridge at Maincy, 1879
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Last week I was in Hampstead and thought I would take a look at the Vale of Health, a poetically named cluster of houses on the Heath where various famous writers have lived, including Tagore and D. H. Lawrence. It was a quiet morning and I felt a bit like a trespasser – it was a almost a relief to turn off the road and wonder down to a bench looking out over the pond which some of the houses back onto. The trees framed the lake in angles that reminded me of the triangular compositions of landscape painters like Cézanne. I found myself thinking that what often seems to be order imposed by an artist may simply be the natural angles assumed by trees growing from the same slopes and subject to the same winds. Then again maybe I was just instinctively classicising. After all, someone probably chose to position that bench in such a way that the diagonals of the birch trunks would strike the viewer just so...

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