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Culture Watch: T.J. Clark's 'At the Courtauld' in London Review of Books

February 9, 2011 |  6:00 am

Cezanne catalog "At the Courtauld," London Review of Books -- With the tightly focused exhibition "Cézanne's Card Players" opening Wednesday at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, now is a good time to read (or re-read) T.J. Clark's marvelously provocative take on the show.

When it had its debut last year at London's Courtauld Gallery, the self-described "Cézanne worshiper" wrote: Cézanne "cannot be written about anymore."

-- Christopher Knight




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I went to Clark's essay, as recommended. Clark's nostalgia for Cezanne is disturbing, e.g. when he writes "Facts of making are different from facts of understanding – that is what 19th-century painting is all about – but each is completely at the other’s service. The cards are little pictures (thank God Cézanne resists playing up this cliché), the players have the weight of a world on their shoulders. It won’t last long, the world in question. And maybe pictures – picturing – will disappear with it." All I learned is that Clark is fed up with interpretations of Cezanne that do not agree with his own--so if one does not kow-tow to Cezanne's work as "astonishing," one is put out of the game(s) of interpretation. Typical art-history dogmatism. Someone should tell Clark that of the millions of paintings made, globally, in the 19th and 20th centuries, that going back to Cezanne with notions that he was the "last" painter to join visuality and history in an important way is childish--and super anti-historical.


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