Thursday, February 16

Mont Sainte-Victoire by Paul Cézanne
Mont Sainte-Victoire by Paul Cézanne
larger image)

Cézanne's perception

... It is the appleyness of the portrait of Cézanne's wife that makes it so permanently interesting: the appleyness, which carries with it also the feeling of knowing the other side as well, the side you don't see, the hidden side of the moon. For the intuitive apperception of the apple is so tangibly aware of the apple that it is aware of it all round, not only just of the front. The eye sees only fronts, and the mind, on the whole, is satisfied with fronts. But intuition needs all-aroundness, and instinct needs insideness. The true imagination is for ever curving round to the other side, to the back of the presented appearance.

... When he makes Madame Cézanne most still, most appley, he starts making the universe slip uneasily about her. It was part of his desire: to make the human form, the life form, come to rest. Not static -- on the contrary. Mobile but come to rest. And at the same time he set the unmoving material world into motion. Walls twitch and slide, chairs bend or rear up a little, clothes curl like burning paper. Cézanne did this partly to satisfy his intuitive feeling that nothing is really statically at rest -- a feeling he seems to have had strongly -- as when he watched the lemons shrivel or go mildewed, in his still-life group, which he left lying there so long so that he could see that gradual flux of change: and partly to fight the cliché, which says that the inanimate world is static, and that walls are still. In his fight with the cliché he denied that walls are still and chairs are static. In his intuitive self he felt for their changes.

And these two activities of his consciousness occupy his later landscapes. In the best landscapes we are fascinated by the mysterious shiftiness of the scene under our eyes; it shifts about as we watch it. And we realize, with a sort of transport, how intuitively true this is of landscape. It is not still. It has its own weird anima, and to our wide-eyed perception it changes like a living animal under our gaze.

-- D.H. Lawrence Phoenix: The Posthumous Papers of D.H. Lawrence, 1936