Michael Glover: Nostalgia as mundane as this doesn't come cheap
It reeks of a kind of nostalgia, opening a scruffy, squeaky door to an entire gone world
Monday 06 February 2012
You could go so far as to say that Cézanne's subject matter is as radically and shockingly insignificant as you could possibly find. Two poor men sit across from each other playing cards in an anonymous café in the south of France. Cézanne would have known the scene. He would have witnessed it again and again. It is utterly of its time and of its place.
The men are almost motionless, almost sculpturally rigid – Cézanne often painted human beings in rigid poses, as if they were as much a still life of a bowl of fruit as living, breathing human beings. Nor was this scene chanced upon once. Cézanne worked at different versions of it again and again, and several fully finished examples are in major institutions around the world. One of them is at the Courtauld Institute in London, and an entire exhibition was devoted to it just last year, comparing it with some of the other versions and appraising it beside various preparatory drawings. Other versions are in Paris and New York.
The subject matter was hugely important to Cézanne, the raising up of the common man – but so was the way he treated it. Such is the subtlety with which Cézanne has moved through his variations upon the colour brown, that you feel as if the men are tonally embedded in that café environment, as if they are knitted into it or grow from it, quite naturally.
Finally, everything seems to melt and to merge into everything else. There is a wonderful timelessness about the scene. This card game could go on forever. No one is about to lay down the final card. And in its extraordinarily appealing backwater serenity, it seems to epitomise French café life in the second half of the 19th century. Nothing can disturb it or touch it. It reeks subtly of a certain kind of nostalgia, opening a scruffy, squeaky door to an entire gone world. Only money can buy such humdrum splendour these days.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 3 Bali nine: Welcome to 'Execution Island' – the Indonesian holiday resort where foreigners are sent to die
- 4 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
- 5 Why you're almost certainly more like your father than your mother
Fifty Shades of Grey banned by Indian censors despite sex scenes being edited out
The Great Comic Relief Bake Off, TV review: Alexa Chung impresses, but Chris Moyles makes Paul Hollywood gag
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Seth Rogan's pot fumes delay hacked Sony boss’s office move
India's Daughter: BBC Four documentary provokes outrage on Twitter
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin