'Student of color' is exhibited at National Gallery

C?zanne was a student of color. Vibrant blues and intense greens are generously applied to the canvas, mainly through the use of a palette knife. Colors became such a focus for his works that he began blurring objects together in order to emphasize the color rather than the actual objects, thus making the paintings abstract. He said, in his later years of life, that "the sensations of color, which give the light, are for me the reason for the abstractions."

The free "C?zanne in Provence" exhibit at the National Gallery of Art glorifies his use of color. The museum has gathered paintings from as far away as St. Petersburg to accentuate C?zanne's evolution from a student of Pissarro and a post-impressionist to a painter influenced by Pablo Picasso and the bridge from impressionism into cubism and post-modernism.

The eight-room exhibition carefully follows C?zanne's life in chronological order to demonstrate how his style changed.

"House with the Red Roof" is among the first paintings shown in the exhibit. The painting depicts the manor house that the C?zanne family owned in the late 1800s in a very impressionistic manner, with loose brushstrokes and close attention to color and lighting.

C?zanne strays from the conventions of impressionism and joins cubism through such works as "Madame C?zanne in the Conservatory." The painting depicts C?zanne's wife, Hortense Fiquet, who seems to reach out toward the viewer with a look of both apathy and desperation. The face of Madame C?zanne, however, is not worth noting strictly from the intense emotions displayed. Rather, the way that the face is painted suggests that the bridging between post-impressionism and cubism has begun. Her face looks slightly geometric in shape, especially the slope of the nose and her cheeks.

The transformation becomes more apparent in his drawings, shown in two separate rooms in the exhibition. One particular drawing, "Rocks near the Grottoes above the Ch?teau Noir," emphasizes C?zanne's love of colors. C?zanne used a variety of colors for the rocks, a technique that strays away from natural colors, which later painters like Matisse copied.

One of C?zanne's most poignant pieces depicts more of a landscape of the mind than a landscape of reality. "Ch?teau Noir," found in the fifth room of the exhibition, portrays a golden house enshrouded in darkness. The branches of the trees reach menacingly towards the manor while the sky weighs heavily down on the little house. The style of the painting suggests that it has become less what is actually there and more what is perceived to be there in order to perpetuate an emotion through the use of color. This painting style grew increasingly popular as more artists discovered C?zanne's work.

At the end of the exhibition, near the tiny gift shop, the best example of C?zanne's leap into post-modernism quietly hangs. "The Garden at Les Lauves" clearly shows C?zanne's love of color to the point of abstraction. It sets C?zanne's work over the arch of cubism into clear post-modernism.

C?zanne is a transitional painter and, as such, portraying his artistic evolution can be tricky. The exhibition cleverly divides each room according to the time period and where he painted in order to show the progression more clearly. More information on the individual paintings would be useful in order for viewers to fully appreciate each work of art, yet the free brochure contains a plethora of knowledge about C?zanne and how his life experiences influenced the paintings found in the exhibition. Audio guides are also available for $5.

An exhibition well worth viewing.

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