La Montagne st Victoire

Until September 26, 2010 – Steele Gallery – Phoenix Art Museum
French master Paul Cézanne, one of the most recognizable names in art, is celebrated worldwide for his Post-Impressionist masterpieces.  However, Cezanne’s greatest legacy may be the transformative effect his work had on 20th century artists.  Cézanne and American Modernism is the first exhibition to examine Cezanne’s influence on American artists working between 1900 and 1930 by bringing together 16 of the French master’s paintings and works on papers with more than 80 works by 33 American artists, including Marsden Hartley, Maurice Prendergast, Arshile Gorky, Alfred Stieglitz and Man Ray.  The exhibition showcases outstanding works from public and private collections throughout the U.S., including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and works from Phoenix Art Museum’s permanent collection.  The exhibition opens on July 1, 2010.

Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) is universally acclaimed as the father of modern art for his revolutionary use of flattened perspective, carefully structured compositions and his signature technique of painting with patches of color. Cézanne and American Modernism reveals how a small group of pioneering American artists championed the reclusive French artist as he gained international prominence in the years shortly after his death. Although these painters and photographers never met Cézanne in person, his long and prolific career provided many avenues of influence for them to explore.

The transformative impact of Cézanne’s painting is vividly illustrated by the American artists’ adaptations of his stylistic hallmarks and subjects. Marsden Hartley was introduced to Cézanne’s work in 1911, moved to the south of France in 1925 to be closer to the native countryside of his mentor, and produced his own rugged and colorful modern landscapes. Cézanne’s powerful images of bathers in the landscape moved several artists, including Max Weber and Arthur B. Davies to pay homage in their compositions of the same topic. The French artist’s strong and powerful portraits, which treat sitters as if they were emotionless still lifes, motivated several artists to follow suit, including Stanton Macdonald-Wright who produce an image of his brother in a colorful and confident style that directly relates to a work by Cézanne. John Marin’s free-flowing watercolors, like those by Cézanne, are notable for their suggestive power, freshness, and immediacy. Artists Patrick Henry Bruce, Andrew Dasburg, Maurice Prendergast, Charles Demuth and others were inspired by Cézanne’s still-life compositions and variously reflect his affinity for vibrant, contrasting colors, titled table tops, multiple views, and complex structures.
Cézanne’s influence on early 20th-century American photography is examined for the first time with examples by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, and others who played a pivotal role in introducing modernism to America. Their experimentation included closely cropped portraits, abstract still lifes, and nudes and bathers in landscape settings.

Another surprising aspect of the exhibition is Cézanne’s remarkable impact on art in the western United States. Artists Andrew Dasburg, Willard Nash, Józef Bakoś, B.J.O Nordfeldt, and others spent varying lengths of time in the region and merged Cézanne’s influence with inspiration from the western landscape and culture. Cézanne also inspired a new generation of younger artists who discovered him for the first time during the 1920s. This includes Arshile Gorky, who created strikingly faithful imitations of Cézanne’s work while living in New York. African-American artists William H. Johnson and Hale Woodruff both visited France at this time and embraced aspects of Cézanne’s palette and structural style early in their careers.

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