Listening to Art

06.07: Paul Cézanne, The Kitchen Table


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Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume six, number seven: The Kitchen Table by Paul Cézanne.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

This issue and the next are devoted to Paul Cézanne, the French painter who lived from 1839 to 1906. Two issues are not enough to summarize Cézanne’s life and influence, so in each I will simply focus on an important letter he wrote.

This letter is dated 15 April 1904, two-and-a-half years before he died. It is the first of a series to artist Émile Bernard. It has four paragraphs, of which I will quote only the second, which contains Cézanne’s famous advice about perceiving objects as cylinders, spheres and cones. This translation is by Alex Danchev in The Letters of Paul Cézanne (p. 334):

Allow me to repeat what I told you here: to treat nature in terms of the cylinder, the sphere and the cone, everything in perspective, so that each side of an object, of a plane, leads to a central point. Lines parallel to the horizon give breadth, be it a section of nature or, if you prefer, the spectacle that Pater Omnipotens Oeterne Deus spread before our eyes. Lines perpendicular to this horizon give depth. Now, we men experience nature more in terms of depth than surface, whence the need to introduce into our vibrations of light, represented by reds and yellows, a sufficient quantity of blue tones, to give a sense of atmosphere.

This is a painting, oil on canvas, 81.5 cm wide by 65 cm high.

Now let’s listen to The Kitchen Table by Paul Cézanne, recorded at the Musée d’Orsay, in Paris, on 16 July 2019.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was The Kitchen Table by Paul Cézanne. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit listeningtoart.org.

Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Bibliography

All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Cézanne, Paul. The Letters of Paul Cézanne. Edited and translated by Alex Danchev. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2013.

Musée d’Orsay. “Paul Cézanne, La table de cuisine.” Musée d’Orsay. https://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/collections/catalogue-des-oeuvres/notice.html?nnumid=1313

Wikipedia, s.v. “Paul Cézanne,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Cézanne.