Meyer Schapiro on Cézanne
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"CÉZANNE USES HERE several of the elements and devices of an earlier still life - the ornamented drape, the table tilted upward, the large mass of white with many tints. It is also like the still life in the big slant of the dominant form. Yet the effect is very different - a more balanced play of the simple and rich; the stable and unstable. The whole is treated with a breadth that recalls the great Venetian portraits of the Renaissance. The forms are amazingly substantial and well-defined. The bent figure fills her space grandly.
"It is a powerfully constructed work, compact and clear, with parts beautifully fitted to each other and to the canvas surface. The tilted mass of the upper body (with right angle at the elbow) is opposed to the rectangular masses of the skirt and drape; yet the vertical and horizontal rarely come to view, and then only in short segments (as in the bracelet and the wall) or as parts of more complex lines. The most stable masses are covered with lines and spots of unarchitectural quality - diagonal, crossed, or curved on the draped table, convergent on the skirt - a typical device of Cézanne's later art by which the severity of construction is softened and opposed qualities are interjoined.
     "The color is rich, grave, and strong. The simplicity of the large aspect conceals at first the variety of the color relationships that have been employed. The dark blue of the skirt has a different kind of contrast with each of the large areas of color. Its darkness or low value is opposed to the white; its coolness, to the warm complementaries of yellow and orange in the fichu and face; its uniformity or evenness, to the mottled color of the drape; its purity, to the mixed, neutralized brown of the wall. At the same time, the blue mass is harmonized with all these distinct, opposed fields: its convergent stripes reappear in the white sleeve, which is also toned with blue and grey; dark blue lines mark the contours of the face and features and right arm, and there is blue, grey, and black in the fichu; it is tied to the wall, not only through vague green and purple tints within the brown and through the lines of the wall and dado at the left, but through the dark key - there is a progression from the skirt to the purplish dado to the upper wall; and last, the blue area is related to the tablecloth through its similar position and shape, and also through the analogy of lines. Touches of red and green bind the face to the decoration of the drape.
     "In this analysis of the color, I have ignored other equally interesting aspects, for example, the position and order of these colors, which have an expressive sense - the warmer, closer, more intimate range being in the left half of the picture, the side of reverie, and the cooler, but more powerfully contrasted, elements on the right half, the side of the body.
"Beautiful too is the refinement with which Cézanne has related the varied inclinations of the large masses in a depth without horizontal planes; the succession of overlapping tilted surfaces between the picture plane and the wall is an exquisite thing. Another subtlety is the handling of the vertical and nearly vertical directions in an unmarked band from the upper wall to the right side of the drape, passing through the head and fichu. I must mention finally the wonderful modeling of the head with its strong accents of the brush - thickly painted blue lines, very considered and precise - which give a sculptural firmness to the contours."
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