James Huneker.

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Promenades of an Impressionist. 12mo, (_Postage_ 15 cents_),
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-"Let us promenade our prejudices." - Stendhal(?)

















































After prolonged study of the art shown at the Paris Autumn Salon you
ask yourself: This whirlpool of jostling ambitions, crazy colours,
still crazier drawing and composition - whither does it tend? Is there
any strain of tendency, any central current to be detected? Is it
young genius in the raw, awaiting the sunshine of success to ripen its
somewhat terrifying gifts? Or is the exhibition a huge, mystifying
_blague_? What, you ask, as you apply wet compresses to your weary
eyeballs, blistered by dangerous proximity to so many blazing
canvases, does the Autumn Salon mean to French art?

There are many canvases the subjects of which are more pathologic than
artistic, subjects only fit for the confessional or the privacy of the
clinic. But, apart from these disagreeable episodes, the main note of
the Salon is a riotous energy, the noisy ebullition of a gang of
students let loose in the halls of art. They seem to rush by you,
yelling from sheer delight in their lung power, and if you are rudely
jostled to the wall, your toes trod upon and your hat clapped down on
your ears, you console yourself with the timid phrase: Youth must have
its fling.


And what a fling! Largely a flinging of paint pots in the sacred
features of tradition. It needs little effort of the imagination to
see hovering about the galleries the faces of - no, not Gérôme, Bonnat,
Jules Lefèvre, Cabanel, or any of the reverend _seigneurs_ of the old
Salon - but the reproachful countenances of Courbet, Manet, Degas, and
Monet; for this motley-wearing crew of youngsters are as violently
radical, as violently secessionistic, as were their immediate
forebears. Each chap has started a little revolution of his own, and
takes no heed of the very men from whom he steals his thunder, now
sadly hollow in the transposition. The pretty classic notion of the
torch of artistic tradition gently burning as it is passed on from
generation to generation receives a shock when confronted by the
methods of the hopeful young anarchs of the Grand Palais. Defiance of
all critical canons at any cost is their shibboleth. Compared to their
fulgurant colour schemes the work of Manet, Monet, and Degas pales and
retreats into the Pantheon of the past. They are become classic.
Another king has usurped their throne - his name is Paul Cézanne.

No need now to recapitulate the story of the New Salon and the
defection from it of these Independents. It is a fashion to revolt in
Paris, and no doubt some day there will arise a new group that will
start the August Salon or the January Salon.

"Independent of the Independents" is a magnificent motto with which to
assault any intrenched organisation.


If riotous energy is, as I have said, the chief note of many of these
hot, hasty, and often clever pictures, it must be sadly stated that of
genuine originality there are few traces. To the very masters they
pretend to revile they owe everything. In vain one looks for a
tradition older than Courbet; a few have attempted to stammer in the
suave speech of Corot and the men of Fontainebleau; but 1863, the year
of the _Salon des Refusés_, is really the year of their artistic
ancestor's birth. The classicism of Lebrun, David, Ingres, Prudhon;
the romanticism of Géricault, Delacroix, Decamps; the tender poetry of
those true _Waldmenschen_, Millet, Dupré, Diaz, Daubigny, or of that
wild heir of Giorgione and Tiepolo, the marvellous colour virtuoso who
"painted music," Monticelli - all these men might never have been born
except for their possible impact upon the so-called "Batignolles"
school. Alas! such ingratitude must rankle. To see the major portion
of this band of young painters, with talent in plenty, occupying
itself in a frantic burlesque of second-hand Cézannes, with here and
there a shallow Monet, a faded Renoir, an affected Degas, or an
impertinent Gauguin, must be mortifying to the older men.

And now we reach the holy precincts. If ardent youths sneered at the
lyric ecstasy of Renoir, at the severe restraint of Chavannes, at the
poetic mystery of Carrière, their lips were hushed as they tiptoed
into the Salle Cézanne. Sacred ground, indeed, we trod as we gazed and
wondered before these crude, violent, sincere, ugly, and bizarre
canvases. Here was the very hub of the Independents' universe. Here
the results of a hard-labouring painter, without taste, without the
faculty of selection, without vision, culture - one is tempted to add,
intellect - who with dogged persistency has painted in the face of
mockery, painted portraits, landscapes, flowers, houses, figures,
painted everything, painted himself. And what paint! Stubborn, with an
instinctive hatred of academic poses, of the atmosphere of the studio,
of the hired model, of "literary," or of mere digital cleverness,
Cézanne has dropped out of his scheme harmony, melody,
beauty - classic, romantic, symbolic, what you will! - and doggedly
represented the ugliness of things. But there is a brutal strength, a
tang of the soil that is bitter, and also strangely invigorating,
after the false, perfumed boudoir art of so many of his

Think of Bouguereau and you have his antithesis in Cézanne - Cézanne
whose stark figures of bathers, male and female, evoke a shuddering
sense of the bestial. Not that there is offence intended in his badly
huddled nudes; he only delineates in simple, naked fashion the horrors
of some undressed humans. His landscapes are primitive though suffused
by perceptible atmosphere; while the rough architecture, shambling
figures, harsh colouring do not quite destroy the impression of
general vitality. You could not say with Walt Whitman that his stunted
trees were "uttering joyous leaves of dark green." They utter, if
anything, raucous oaths, as seemingly do the
self-portraits - exceedingly well modelled, however. Cézanne's
still-life attracts by its whole-souled absorption; these fruits and
vegetables really savour of the earth. Chardin interprets still-life
with realistic beauty; if he had ever painted an onion it would have
revealed a certain grace. When Paul Cézanne paints an onion you smell
it. Nevertheless, he has captured the affections of the rebels and is
their god. And next season it may be some one else.

It may interest readers of Zola's L'Oeuvre to learn about one of the
characters, who perforce sat for his portrait in that clever novel (a
direct imitation of Goncourt's Manette Salomon). Paul Cézanne bitterly
resented the liberty taken by his old school friend Zola. They both
hailed from Aix, in Provence. Zola went up to Paris; Cézanne remained
in his birthplace but finally persuaded his father to let him study
art at the capital. His father was both rich and wise, for he settled
a small allowance on Paul, who, poor chap, as he said, would never
earn a franc from his paintings. This prediction was nearly verified.
Cézanne was almost laughed off the artistic map of Paris. Manet they
could stand, even Claude Monet; but Cézanne - communard and anarchist
he must be (so said the wise ones in official circles), for he was
such a villainous painter! Cézanne died, but not before his apotheosis
by the new crowd of the Autumn Salon. We are told by admirers of Zola
how much he did for his neglected and struggling fellow-townsman; how
the novelist opened his arms to Cézanne. Cézanne says quite the
contrary. In the first place he had more money than Zola when they
started, and Zola, after he had become a celebrity, was a great man
and very haughty.

"A mediocre intelligence and a detestable friend" is the way the
prototype of Claude Lantier puts the case. "A bad book and a
completely false one," he added, when speaking to the painter Emile
Bernard on the disagreeable theme. Naturally Zola did not pose his old
friend for the entire figure of the crazy impressionist, his hero,
Claude. It was a study composed of Cézanne, Bazille, and one other, a
poor, wretched lad who had been employed to clean Manet's studio,
entertained artistic ambitions, but hanged himself. The conversations
Cézanne had with Zola, his extreme theories of light, are all in the
novel - by the way, one of Zola's most finished efforts. Cézanne, an
honest, hard-working man, bourgeois in habits if not by temperament,
was grievously wounded by the treachery of Zola; and he did not fail
to denounce this treachery to Bernard.

Paul Cézanne was born January 19, 1839. His father was a rich
bourgeois, and while he was disappointed when his son refused to
prosecute further his law studies, he, being a sensible parent and
justly estimating Paul's steadiness of character, allowed him to go to
Paris in 1862, giving him an income of a hundred and fifty francs a
month, which was shortly after doubled. With sixty dollars a month an
art student of twenty-three could, in those days, live comfortably,
study at leisure, and see the world. Cézanne from the start was in
earnest. Instinctively he realised that for him was not the rapid
ascent of the rocky path that leads to Parnassus. He mistrusted his
own talent, though not his powers of application. At first he
frequented the Académie Suisse, where he encountered as fellow-workers
Pissarro and Guillaumin. He soon transferred his easel to the
Beaux-Arts and became an admirer of Delacroix and Courbet. It seems
strange in the presence of a Cézanne picture to realise that he, too,
suffered his little term of lyric madness and wrestled with huge
mythologic themes - giant men carrying off monstrous women.
Connoisseurs at the sale of Zola's art treasures were astonished by
the sight of a canvas signed Cézanne, the subject of which was
L'Enlèvement, a romantic subject, not lacking in the spirit of
Delacroix. The Courbet influence persisted, despite the development of
the younger painter in other schools. Cézanne can claim Courbet and
the Dutchmen as artistic ancestors.

When Cézanne arrived in Paris the first comrade to greet him was Zola.
The pair became inseparable; they fought for naturalism, and it was to
Cézanne that Zola dedicated his _Salons_ which are now to be found in
a volume of essays on art and literature bearing the soothing title of
Mes Haines. Zola, pitching overboard many friends, wrote his famous
eulogy of Manet in the _Evenement_, and the row he raised was so
fierce that he was forced to resign as art critic from that journal.
The fight then began in earnest. The story is a thrice-told one. It
may be read in Théodore Duret's study of Manet and, as regards
Cézanne, in the same critic's volume on Impressionism. Cézanne
exhibited in 1874 with Manet and the rest at the impressionists'
salon, held at the studio of Nadar the photographer. He had earlier
submitted at once to Manet's magic method of painting, but in 1873, at
Auvers-sur-Oise, he began painting in the _plein air_ style and with
certain modifications adhered to that manner until the time of his
death. The amazing part of it all is that he produced for more than
thirty years and seldom sold a canvas, seldom exhibited. His solitary
appearance at an official salon was in 1882, and he would not have
succeeded then if it had not been for his friend Guillaumin, a member
of the selecting jury, who claimed his rights and passed in, amid
execrations, both mock and real, a portrait by Cézanne.

Called a _communard_ in 1874, Cézanne was saluted with the title of
anarchist in 1904, when his vogue had begun; these titles being a
species of official nomenclature for all rebels. Thiers, once
President of the French Republic, made a _bon mot_ when he exclaimed:
"A Romantic - that is to say, Communist!" During his entire career this
mild, reserved gentleman from Aix came under the ban of the critics
and the authorities, for he had shouldered his musket in 1871, as did
Manet, as did Bazille, - who, like Henri Regnault, was killed in a

His most virulent enemies were forced to admit that Edouard Manet had
a certain facility with the brush; his quality and beauty of sheer
paint could not be winked away even by Albert Wolff. But to Cézanne
there was no quarter shown. He was called the "Ape of Manet"; he was
hissed, cursed, abused; his canvases were spat upon, and as late as
1902, when M. Roujon, the Director of the Beaux-Arts, was asked by
Octave Mirbeau to decorate Cézanne, he nearly fainted from
astonishment. Cézanne! That barbarian! The amiable director suggested
instead the name of Claude Monet. Time had enjoyed its little
whirligig with that great painter of vibrating light and water, but
Monet blandly refused the long-protracted honour. Another anecdote is
related by M. Duret. William II of Germany in 1899 wished to examine
with his own eyes, trained by the black, muddy painting of Germany,
the canvases of Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Cézanne, and Manet, acquired
by Director Tschudi for the Berlin National Gallery. He saw them all
except the Cézanne. Herr Tschudi feared that the Parisian fat would be
in the imperial fire if the Cézanne picture appeared. So he hid it. As
it was his Majesty nodded in emphatic disapproval of the imported
purchases. If he had viewed the Cézanne!

At first blush, for those whose schooling has been academic, the
Cézanne productions are shocking. Yet his is a personal vision, though
a heavy one. He has not a facile brush; he is not a great painter; he
lacks imagination, invention, fantasy; but his palette is his own. He
is a master of gray tones, and his scale is, as Duret justly observes,
a very intense one. He avoids the anecdote, historic or domestic. He
detests design, prearranged composition. His studio is an open field,
light the chief actor of his palette. He is never conventionally
decorative unless you can call his own particular scheme decorative.
He paints what he sees without flattery, without flinching from any
ugliness. Compared with him Courbet is as sensuous as Correggio. He
does not seek for the correspondences of light with surrounding
objects or the atmosphere in which Eugène Carrière bathes his
portraits, Rodin his marbles. The Cézanne picture does not modulate,
does not flow; is too often hard, though always veracious - Cézannes
veracity, be it understood. But it is an inescapable veracity. There
is, too, great vitality and a peculiar reserved passion, like that of
a Delacroix _à ribbers_, and in his still-life he is as great even as

His landscapes are real, though without the subtle poetry of Corot or
the blazing lyricism of Monet. He hails directly from the Dutch: Van
der Near, in his night pieces. Yet no Dutchman ever painted so
uncompromisingly, so close to the border line that divides the rigid
definitions of old-fashioned photography - the "new" photography hugs
closely the mellow mezzotint - and the vision of the painter. An
eye - nothing more, is Cézanne. He refuses to see in nature either a
symbol or a sermon. Withal his landscapes are poignant in their
reality. They are like the grill age one notes in ancient French
country houses - little caseate cut in the windows through which you
may see in vivid outline a little section of the landscape. Cézanne
marvellously renders certain surfaces, china, fruit, tapestry.

Slowly grew his fame as a sober, sincere, unaffected workman of art.
Disciples rallied around him. He accepted changing fortunes with his
accustomed equanimity. Maurice Denis painted for the Champ de Mars
Salon of 1901 a picture entitled Homage à Cézanne, after the
well-known _hommages_ of Fantin-Latour. This _homage_ had its uses.
The disciples became a swelling, noisy chorus, and in 1904 the Cézanne
room was thronged by overheated enthusiasts who would have offered
violence to the first critical dissident. The older men, the followers
of Monet, Manet, Degas, and Whistler, talked as if the end of the
world had arrived. Art is a serious affair in Paris. However, after
Cézanne appeared the paintings of that half-crazy, unlucky genius,
Vincent van Gogh, and of the gifted, brutal Gauguin. And in the face
of such offerings Cézanne may yet, by reason of his moderation,
achieve the unhappy fate of becoming a classic. He is certainly as far
removed from Van Gogh and Gauguin on the one side as he is from Manet
and Courbet on the other. Huysmans does not hesitate to assert that
Cézanne contributed more to accelerate the impressionist movement than
Manet. Paul Cézanne died in Aix, in Provence, October 23, 1906.

Emile Bernard, an admirer, a quasi-pupil of Cézanne's and a painter of
established reputation, discoursed at length in the _Mercure de
France_ upon the methods and the man. His anecdotes are interesting.
Without the genius of Flaubert, Cézanne had something of the great
novelist's abhorrence of life - fear would be a better word. He
voluntarily left Paris to immure himself in his native town of Aix,
there to work out in peace long-planned projects, which would, he
believed, revolutionise the technique of painting. Whether for good or
evil, his influence on the younger men in Paris has been powerful,
though it is now on the wane. How far they have gone astray in
imitating him is the most significant thing related by Emile Bernard,
a friend of Paul Gauguin and a member of his Pont-Aven school.

In February, 1904, Bernard landed in Marseilles after a trip to the
Orient. A chance word told him that there had been installed an
electric tramway between Marseilles and Aix. Instantly the name of
Cézanne came to his memory; he had known for some years that the old
painter was in Aix. He resolved to visit him, and fearing a doubtful
reception he carried with him a pamphlet he had written in 1889, an
eulogium of the painter. On the way he asked his fellow-travellers for
Cézanne's address, but in vain; the name was unknown. In Aix he met
with little success. Evidently the fame of the recluse had not reached
his birthplace. At last Bernard was advised to go to the Mayor's
office, where he would find an electoral list. Among the voters he
discovered a Paul Cézanne, who was born January 19, 1839, who lived at
25 Rue Boulegon. Bernard lost no time and reached a simple dwelling
house with the name of the painter on the door. He rang. The door
opened. He entered and mounted a staircase. Ahead of him, slowly
toiling upward, was an old man in a cloak and carrying a portfolio. It
was Cézanne. After he had explained the reason for his visit, the old
painter cried: "You are Emile Bernard! You are a maker of biographies!
Signac" - an impressionist - "told me of you. You are also a painter?"
Bernard, who had been painting for years, and was a friend of Signac,
was nonplussed at his sudden literary reputation, but he explained the
matter to Cézanne, who, however, was in doubt until he saw later the
work of his admirer.

He had another atelier a short distance from the town; he called it
"The Motive." There, facing Mount Sainte-Victoire, he painted every
afternoon in the open; the majority of his later landscapes were
inspired by the views in that charming valley. Bernard was so glad to
meet Cézanne that he moved to Aix.

In Cézanne's studio at Aix Bernard encountered some extraordinary
studies in flower painting and three death heads; also monstrous
nudes, giant-like women whose flesh appeared parboiled. On the streets
Cézanne was always annoyed by boys or beggars; the former were
attracted by his bohemian exterior and to express their admiration
shouted at him or else threw stones; the beggars knew their man to be
easy and were rewarded by small coin. Although Cézanne lived like a
bachelor, his surviving sister saw that his household was comfortable.
His wife and son lived in Paris and often visited him. He was rich;
his father, a successful banker at Aix, had left him plenty of money;
but a fanatic on the subject of art, ceaselessly searching for new
tonal combinations, he preferred a hermit's existence. In Aix he was
considered eccentric though harmless. His pride was doubled by a
morbid shyness. Strangers he avoided. So sensitive was he that once
when he stumbled over a rock Bernard attempted to help him by seizing
his arm. A terrible scene ensued. The painter, livid with fright,
cursed the unhappy young Parisian and finally ran away. An explanation
came when the housekeeper told Bernard that her master was a little
peculiar. Early in life he had been kicked by some rascal and ever
afterward was nervous. He was very irritable and not in good health.

In Bernard's presence he threw a bust made of him by Solari to the
ground, smashing it. It didn't please him. In argument he lost his
temper, though he recovered it rapidly. Zola's name was anathema. He
said that Daumier drank too much; hence his failure to attain
veritable greatness. Cézanne worked from six to ten or eleven in the
morning at his atelier; then he breakfasted, repaired to the "Motive,"
there to remain until five in the evening. Returning to Aix, he dined
and retired immediately. And he had kept up this life of toil and
abnegation for years. He compared himself to Balzac's Frenhofer (in
The Unknown Masterpiece), who painted out each day the work of the
previous day. Cézanne adored the Venetians - which is curious - and
admitted that he lacked the power to realise his inward vision; hence
the continual experimenting. He most admired Veronese, and was
ambitious of being received at what he called the "Salon de
Bouguereau." The truth is, despite Cézanne's long residence in Paris,
he remained provincial to the end; his father before becoming a banker
had been a hairdresser, and his son was proud of the fact. He never
concealed it. He loved his father's memory and had wet eyes when he
spoke of him.

Bernard thinks that the vision of his master was defective; hence the
sometime shocking deformations he indulged in. "His _optique_ was more
in his brain than in his eye." He lacked imagination absolutely, and
worked slowly, laboriously, his method one of excessive complication.
He began with a shadow, then a touch, superimposing tone upon tone,
modelling his paint somewhat like Monticelli, but without a hint of
that artist's lyricism. Sober, without rhetoric, a realist, yet with a
singularly rich and often harmonious palette, Cézanne reported
faithfully what his eyes told him.

It angered him to see himself imitated and he was wrathful when he
heard that his still-life pictures were praised in Paris. "That stuff
they like up there, do they? Their taste must be low," he would
repeat, his eyes sparkling with malice. He disliked the work of Paul
Gauguin and repudiated the claim of being his artistic ancestor. "He
did not understand me," grumbled Cézanne. He praised Thomas Couture,
who was, he asserted, a true master, one who had formed such excellent
pupils as Courbet, Manet, and Puvis. This rather staggered Bernard, as

Online LibraryJames HunekerPromenades of an Impressionist → online text (page 1 of 24)