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

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