Paul Cézanne: Site/Non-Site

Paul Cézanne, Portrait of a Peasant, 1905-06, oil on linen, 65 x 55 cm (Museo Th
Paul Cézanne, Portrait of a Peasant, 1905-06, oil on linen, 65 x 55 cm (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid)

David Rhodes reviews the recent exhibition Cézanne Site/Non-site at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.

Rhodes writes that in the exhibition "two concepts coined by the New York artist Robert Smithson during the 1960s have been used to explore aspects of the landscape and still life paintings of Paul Cézanne. For Smithson 'site' was the outdoors and 'non-site,' the studio... In 1967 Smithson argued that Cézanne’s formal achievements had been over emphasized — beginning with the Cubists — at the expense of the important relationship he believed the paintings held to location and environment. Although it might actually seem impossible, to overestimate Cézanne’s formal impact on painters who came after him – only two names need be mentioned, Matisse and Picasso – the consideration of the physical context in the production of Cézanne’s painting is indeed very rewarding. The exhibition rigorously explores the dialectic between open air and studio, convincingly demonstrating an eventual synthesis of the hitherto mutually exclusive experiences. Whereas the impressionists concentrated on landscape alone, Cézanne consistently painted both landscape and still life, eventually seeking to integrate the two, erasing the boundaries (both imaginary and physical) of inside and outside."