Cézanne’s Large Bathers (c.1906)
Sidney Geist (1914-2005) was a sculptor and sometime-art historian who wrote a most unconventional book on Cezanne, published by Harvard University Press in 1988. It was slammed, spat on and torn to shreds by academics. John Rewald wrote that it “was a slap in the face of the scholarly community. It does not contain a single, solid new fact…...is filled with grotesque statements, cockeyed theories presented as scientific discoveries, interpretations based on the author’s wholly inadequate knowledge of the French language” and so on1. Yet, despite some wooly theories and strange claims, Geist still had certain insights so important and so game-changing for the interpretation of Cezanne’s art that they make Rewald’s contributions in that area seem pedantic and minor.
Take, for example, Cézanne’s vast canvas known as The Large Bathers in Philadelphia. Geist noticed what no-one had before that this idyllic scene of bathers was based on the head of a girl. Take a look at the next diagram and then switch back and forth between the two images until you see what Geist saw.
Click next thumbnail to continue
See (in the blue lines) how the trees are her tresses, two clouds suggest her eyes, her nose is where the sand-colored ground meets some trees, her mouth is a swimmer in the lake, her chin the shore. Geist considered the girl’s amorphous presence unintentional while still thinking the painting an homage to Cézanne’s wife.2
See conclusion below
More Works by Cezanne
Learn how to look at Cézanne differently, using another form of visual perception
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