The Portraits of Paul Cézanne and the Lifeworks of David Hockney
23 March 2017
See Two of the Most Influential Artists from the 19th & 20th Centuries
This June, Paris is home to two of the most exciting art exhibitions of the year, as the Portraits of Paul Cézanne arrives at Musée d'Orsay; while the Pompidou Centre celebrates David Hockney’s 62 year career with a rousing retrospective.
Portraits by Cézanne
13th June – 24th September 2017
One of the most important artists of the 19th century, Paul Cézanne’s influence over avant-garde art is unrivalled. Already pivotal in developing the Impressionist and Postimpressionist movements of the 19th century; his work went on to provide the inspiration for some of the most important styles of the following 100 years. Matisse and Picasso - pioneers of Fauvism and Cubism respectively - would later go as far to call Cézanne 'the father of us all'.
Such was the importance of Cézanne, that he has been the subject of countless posthumous expositions; but never before has a look into the artist been centred entirely on his portraits. Hence, the collaborative venture between the Musée d'Orsay, London’s National Portrait Gallery and Washington’s National Gallery of Art delves into uncharted territories; categorised by National Portrait Gallery director Nicholas Cullinan as 'arguably the most personal, and therefore most human aspect of Cézanne’s art'.
A prolific painter, Cézanne would create nearly 200 portraits during his 46 year career; over a quarter of which will be chronologically showcased at Musée d'Orsay. The exhibition will look closely at his alterations of style and method, and the increased understanding of likeness and identity that progressed throughout his life; beginning with the Courbet inspired years, incorporating thick applications of paint via a palette knife.
Other notable examples of exhibited portraiture include paintings of his wife, Marie-Hortense Fiquet; most famously in Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair (1888-90); and a number of Cézanne’s self-portraits, namely Self Portrait in a Bowler Hat (1885-86). Pivotal works like Boy in a Red Waistcoat (1888-90) also feature - one such Postimpressionist canvas that drew admiration from the Fauves for the use of greens and mauves in the boy’s hands.
The exhibition culminates with portraits of the artist’s gardener, Vallier; painted in Aix-en-Provence shortly before Cézanne’s death in 1906. Though categorised as Postimpressionist, these portrayals from his final years were of particular influence to the development of Cubism and Fauvism. His distinctive style of building with colour and methodical approach to the natural world would later be adopted by Matisse and Picasso, as they prepared to revolutionise the future of art.
21st June – 23rd October 2017
One of the most popular and influential British artists of the 20th century; David Hockney returns to the Pompidou Centre - nearly 20 years after his Paris debut - for an all-encompassing retrospective of his life’s work.
The exhibition - organised in collaboration with London’s Tate Modern and New York’s MET - takes you on a journey through Hockney’s 62 year career; beginning with a look at the provocative paintings from his time at the Royal College of Art, which would announce the young eccentric to the world.
The exposition then transports you to what is arguably Hockney’s most creative period; where the coldness of London is abandoned for the shimmering pools of Los Angeles. Seminal works, A Bigger Splash (1967) and Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) from 1972 are among the unmissable paintings inspired by his time in California. These two acrylics also offer insight into Hockney’s continuous accumulation of artistic styles; here contrasting the Abstract Expressionist aesthetics, to the Photorealistic backdrops of suburban California.
Other styles on display at the Pompidou Centre include Hockney’s foray into Cubism; inspired by his idol Pablo Picasso, who would have a profound effect on the artist after he made several visits to a 1960 Picasso exhibition at the Tate Gallery. The bulk of Hockney’s work from the 1980s is the most evident of the Spaniards influence, as seen in oils like Christopher With His Glasses On (1984).
Another occurring theme throughout the exhibition is Hockney’s willingness to embrace new technologies. As early as the 60s he was experimenting with different mediums - abandoning oils in favour of fast-drying acrylics - but recent years have seen numerous dabbles into the digital world. One such endeavour is his series of sketches drawn on iPads; the subject of their own popular exhibition in 2012. However, his most fruitful attempt at getting to grips with technology is undoubtedly the vast video feature (deemed worthy of its own exhibition space). Shot with nine individual cameras, the footage captures a journey down a single Yorkshire road, taking in four-seasons; resulting in a mesmeric cinematic collage, which provides for one of the climaxes at the Pompidou.
Other highlights from the latter stages of Hockney’s career include a series of 25 large charcoal drawings, diligently exploring the effects of light, shade and texture in the wooded lanes of Yorkshire in his The Arrival of Spring collection (2012-13).
Ultimately, David Hockney at the Pompidou Centre presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see all of the icon’s monumental works displayed under one roof. But more than that, the retrospective serves almost as an autobiography. Throughout, the people and places closest to Hockney are displayed subjectively on canvas; from Bradford to California, from past-lovers to his parents - the exposition is worth your time simply to see life through the eyes of one of the world’s best-loved living artists.
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