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Cezanne and Pollock

Explain Cйzanne and Pollock’s contribution to Modernism by:

  • Describing their new techniques/materials (practice)
  • Innovation in concepts, theories and intentions
  • Explore the significance of their work and the influence they had on other artists (support with critical and historical quotes/comments.)

    ‘I want to make of Impressionism something soled and durable, like the art of the museums’ Paul Cйzanne

    ‘The source of my painting is the unconscious’ Jackson Pollock

    Modernism is the revolutionary ideas and styles in art, architecture, and literature that developed in the early 20th century as a reaction to traditional forms. Both Cйzanne and Pollock understood that although their art was turning away from traditional forms, art is continuity. Never disregarding the Old Master, Cйzanne is said to be the father of modernism and Pollock the man who brought art from Paris to America. These two men, both known as avant-garde artists, one who’s aim in life was to paint fruit and avoid people, the other who spent most of his time drunk, two great artists who revolutionised the art world with their use of new material and techniques and with their ideas and theories. Cйzanne began as an Impressionist but soon became frustrated, as Impressionist did not generate paintings that were compositionally strong, and so the creator of Modernism set out on a journey to empower objects with three-dimensional solidity. Cйzanne wanted to establish an equilibrium between the vivacious colour and solid form of three-dimensional objects and the two-dimensional surface of the picture plane. (Post-Impressionism: Cezanne, Nineteenth Century Art, pg 478). Similarly, Pollock was a modernist whose works were most prominent between 1948 and 1952. Pollock set out to explain as well as he could an emotional response to the day-to-day problems that are thrown in out face. Lee Siegal believes Pollock painted as if living and painting were identical. (Critical Eye, Lee Siegal, pg 3).

    Picasso, and the traditional Indian and Mexican ways of working inspired Pollock. Working mainly on the floor, Pollock would drip paint on the un-stretched canvas, sometimes hanging it on the wall to change the direction of the paint. Pollock was an artist who believed in art for arts sake. Cйzanne on the other hand was still a realist, while Pollock worked with surrealism and abstract art. Cйzanne was a realist he painted what he saw, but did not imitate it. By using many different techniques Cйzanne was able to create something so simple that had been seen before but not in the same light as Cйzanne painted them. Cйzanne used many new techniques and materials to create his works; not only on the canvas but also in the setting he painted. He liked to mix plaster in the cloths he used these in his works so that they could be easily moulded, whichever way he liked. Although Cezanne never disregarded the Old Masters he did defy some old rules of the art tradition that had come about during Renaissance time. Cйzanne liked to also sculpt his fruit with pure colours preferring not mix the colours, and then juxtaposing the unmixed colours. As well as this Cйzanne is famous for his rebelliousness in regards to the idea of one vantage point. Cйzanne did not agree with this he aimed to get as much into the picture as he could. It was this point that was Cйzanne’s most drastic step towards modernism, the collapsing of space. He moved around his subject, painting not only the objects but also the relationship between them. Pollock also moved around his works stating On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from all four sides and literally be in the painting. Pollock unlike Cйzanne did not prepare a subject to paint but rather began and watched in an almost trance as his masterpiece developed. His paintings are suggestive of the two sides of his personality, wildness and a personality; he extended the function of art to include self- expression and the search for an understanding of self.

    Cйzanne’s painting technique is also innovative; the lusciously round fruits are constructed of small patches of pigment crowded within dark outlines. Making the fruit look like it could roll of the table. Other innovations include his structural use of colour and brushstroke. Pollock believed in the importance of the brushstroke and quality of the paint rather than the idea of imitating reality. As well as steering away from reality Pollock preferred to steer away from conventional artists tools and work with sticks, trowels, knives, and dripping fluid paint. Pollock did not invent the drip, but the way he used the drip caused his style to become known as action painting. Holding the brush or stick away from the canvas Pollock threw lines in the air, in direction. This grew from his control of gesture. Pollock is also well known for his unconventional paints, using car paint, duco and ordinary house paints.

    With his innovation techniques and material Pollock was an important force in bringing American art out of its cultural isolation and into a position of world leadership. Pollock’s art reflects modern day obsession, he developed the idea of painting as a pure psychological event, eliminating the gap between the subjective world of the artists thinking and feeling and the objective world of paint and canvas. Pollock’s theory developed from the Jungian philosophy, which asserts that certain myths and beliefs are repeated in different societies at various times. Jung believed in that psychological fact that the artist had at all times been the instruments and spokesperson of the spirit of the artist’s age. (European and American Artists: Jackson Pollock). Cйzanne articulated in art what he was not capable to do in words, on paper or to people. Cйzanne wished to create nature with colour, and that the colour allowed to audience to discover, in turn the entire scene.

    Cйzanne inspired many young and new upcoming artists, as did Pollock. Although both believed in not imitating some of their admirers did just that and tried to replicate what was already there. It was here that the followers began to understand the artists. By replicating a picture or style it lost heart, soul and emotion if it had nothing of your own. The reason for Cйzanne and Pollock being so popular was just that, their painting had heart, soul and emotion. Because that is where it came from, their works where not just paintings but lives. For Cйzanne this was a separate life, a separate reality to the one he was in. Cйzanne sought reality in his own paintings while Pollock thought that his reality was his painting. His blood, sweat and life went into his works. And the reality was that this was his life and he thoroughly believed that painting was his life.

    In conclusion, Paul Cйzanne and Jackson Pollock revolutionised the art world of its time and for that we are grateful. It is in thanks of men like this that art is able to move forward and not stay at a standstill. Although both were not social butterflies their works depict what they were not capable of doing or saying in any other way except paint. While Pollock is and was only famous for four years of his work, it is Cйzanne’s still lifes that stand out most for us, he could put so much emotion and feeling into a couple of oranges, a pear, and three apples next to a jug than an actually person.




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