Influences (Matisse on Diebenkorn)

Richard Diebenkorn - Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad - 1965 - 183 x 214 cm - 72 x 84 in - oil on canvas

A great example of a notable artist permitting influence in their work.  One could say this is a homage to Matisse.

The influence is obvious, but the painting is a Diebenkorn.  Showing the feel of another artist’s considerations and not losing yourself is very important.

The composition has strong shapes and flatness, which he did so well.  Yet the painting has depth without using perspective.  All that is needed are a couple of obliques which  accomplish this nicely.

Diebenkorn’s superb use of shapes permits colour to come forth and dance!

I must mention the rhythm of blacks taking you across the painting.  They are wonderful notes relieving the strong verticals in the painting.

Henri Matisse - Interior with Eggplants - 1911 - 212 x 246 cm - 84 x 97 in - distemper on canvas



Giacometti (Creating Space with Planes)


Alberto Giacomatti - Self Portrait - 1923 - 55 x 32 cm - 22 x 13 in - oil on canvas

This wonderful painting is a superb example of creating the feeling of depth or space with a plane.

In this painting Giacometti provided a plane, or shape, appearing in front of the face.  This is an consideration coming directly from the influence of Cezanne.

Now carefully peruse the right side (his right) of his head.  Do you see a straight line at the edge of his hair, running down through his ear to the edge of his neck down to the collar?  It then takes a right angle turn to the bottom to his chin, creating the bottom edge of the plane.  Now go back the where we began in his hair and note the angle which defines the top of the plane.  It’s subtle until we notice that wonderful vertical line in his hair on the other side of his face.

Keeping in mind that the shape is meant to be felt, rather than seen, do you see the plane in front of his face?

You may feel his face projecting through the plane, which is fine, as it is meant to be open for interpretation, as there is no right or wrong way of seeing these considerations.





Cezanne (Supporting your subject)

Paul Cezanne - Man Standing, Hands on Hips - 1885 - 127 x 97 cm - 50 x 38 in - oil on canvas

This painting shows us how important providing support for your subject and how subtle it can be.

Now support is “integrating” the subject with the rest of the painting.  This is not easy  as it can take many forms in a composition and it may take analysing many images to fully appreciate how necessary it is.

I will restrict myself to three examples.

I will first note how Cezanne has rhythmically supported (integrated) the figure with the background by providing two sensitive verticals at the left of the painting.

Do you see the line at head level? (see detail)  The other vertical is  near the edge of the painting, say at leg level. These sensitive lines or edges integrate the figure with the rest of the painting.

Another example is a white shape in the background which echoes the angle of right arm.  (see detail)

detail showing vertical at head level and the shape supporting the arm

Do you feel the connection?

There is also an interesting “pull” in this painting, the right nipple.  When you look at the head you are pulled to the nipple.  This is very important and would not work if he had emphasized both nipples.  That would have created competition for the head as well as making the painting static.

Integration and pulls are not meant to be noticed when enjoying the subject matter.  An exceptional artist like Cezanne was very aware of their importance, and used them beautifully when creating his compositions

Influences (Cezanne on Matisse)

Henri Matisse - Apples on a table against a Green Background - 1916 - 115 x 90 cm - 42 x 35 in


In this wonderful tribute to Cezanne.  Matisse shows us what appears to be simple is actually very sophisticated.

There is a great deal going on in this painting , but I will limit my comments to Cezanne’s revolutionary consideration of including time in painting.  He was addressing the problems with perspective and may not be actually thinking in terms of including time, but his solution of allowing the viewer to move is precisely that, as the following generations of artists certainly have embraced.

Now to the painting.  Note how he painted the pedestal as if you are at it’s level.  Now look at the table top, you are now looking down at the fruit.  This would not be possible, unless you move, as we do in our reality, in other words the painting has time!

The viewer is invited to move!

You may also ask yourself is the background a wall or the floor, or both?  Why the vertical lines through the fruit?  Matisse leaves questions open for the viewer’s interpretation, as a master should.

I know, I went beyond limiting my comments to time.


Paul Cezanne - Receptacles, Fruit and Biscuits on a Sideboard - 1873 - 65 x 81 cm - oil on canvas

This still life shows us one way Cezanne was moving away from perspective and allowing “movement” to find its place in his paintings.

What is intriguing is that this movement is not in the inanimate painting, it is the viewer that senses movement.

We see this in the wine glass and the cups above.  Note how they are painted as if they are on the same level.  In reality, this would not be possible unless the viewer is moving!

Cezanne has freed the viewer by removing the fixed horizon line, which permits the viewer to move, not physically, but imaginatively or subconsciously!

Can less be more?

Don Farrell - Commerce - 2007 - 53 x 71 cm - 21 x 28 in - mixed media on paper

Can less be more?  I have been wrestling with this consideration for years, and I think the answer is yes, if the artist is sincere!

A good example is the painting “Commerce” which was a response to watching the  touring boats in Paris, and the regimentation of passing at the midway point of their scheduled routines.

I was very concerned with loosing the reason for the painting for the sake of detail.  I want to show the act of passing more than what is passing.

I’m sure this process of reducing is as interesting for the viewer as well and there is a very fine line between success or failure.


Paul Cezanne - Madame Cezanne in a Yellow Chair - 1893 - 81 x 65 cm -32 x 26 in - oil on canvas

What a great painting!  As in yesterday’s post the subject is leaning.

I would like to point out as before how he provides the feeling of space with shapes, which is very evident at the bottom of this painting.  There is a wonderful shape which I have isolated in the detail below.

Can you feel the shape being in front?  (blurring your vision may help).  Now return to the shape in the painting.  Do  you sense the shape connecting to the edge of her dress at the bottom right of the painting?  When we make the connection, we feel a larger shape spanning across in front of her, supporting her hands.

This is far from depiction, what we are viewing is what eventually be termed cubism.

There are other wonderful considerations in this composition.  Cezanne provided a very sensitive pull, a terrific shift and masterful integration as well as other masterful strokes.


Paul Cezanne - House and Farm at Jas de Bouffan - 1885 - 60 x 73 cm - 24 x 29 in - oil on canvas


Cezanne is considered by many as the father of modern art. I certainly agree.

One of the main reasons why he is so highly regarded is how he resolved what was being considered “the problem with perspective”.  Perspective freezes the viewer and the subject matter.  An an alternative was elusive for progressive artists of the time. .

How does an artist show depth or space and permit the viewer movement?

Cezanne resolved this with what is termed planes of space, as I will explain in this detail


We sense planes (or shapes) before information.  I realize it can take time to consciously see them and an artist should not force them onto the viewer.

Note the dark vertical lines and how the one one the right connects to the tree. The bottom of the left line also has a angle which compliments the angle of the tree.

Starting at the top note how your eye travels down between the lines and then moves to the left as directed by the tree.  Can you sense the space between the lines being in front of the building?  If you can it is because you know the tree is in front of the house.

When you begin to see these planes you become more engaged with the artist.

Also, ask yourself why are the buildings leaning?  There is a great deal to appreciate in a Cezanne painting.  The leaning energizes the painting, if they were straight up and down as they are in reality, the painting would have a static feel, which he did not want!  .