Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Paul Cézanne

French Artist and Post-Impressionist Painter

"Art is a harmony which runs parallel with nature -- what is one to think of those imbeciles who say that the artist is always inferior to nature?"

"The only thing that is really difficult is to prove what one believes."

"For an impressionist to paint from nature is not to paint the subject, but to realize sensations."

"I am the primitive of the method I have invented."

"Right now a moment is fleeting by! Capture its reality in paint! To do that we must; put all else out of our minds. We must become that moment; make ourselves a sensitive recording plate. Give the image of what we actually see, forgetting everything that has been seen before our time."

"Right now a moment of time is passing by! We must become that moment."

"The awareness of our own strength makes us modest."

"The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution."

"We live in a rainbow of chaos."

"When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art."

"With an apple I will astonish Paris."

"An art which isn't based on feeling isn't an art at all ... feeling is the principle, the beginning and the end; craft, objective, technique – all these are in the middle"

"Shadow is a color as light is, but less brilliant; light and shadow are only the relation of two tones."

"There are two things in the painter, the eye and the mind; each of them should aid the other."

"Painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realizing one's sensations."

"The painter must enclose himself within his work; he must respond not with words, but with paintings."

"The most seductive thing about art is the personality of the artist himself."

"Style is not created through servile imitation of the masters; it proceed from the artist's own particular way of feeling and expressing himself."

"Genius is the ability to renew one's emotions in daily experience."

"The artist makes things concrete and gives them individuality.""

"Doubtless there are things in nature which have not yet been seen. If an artist discovers them, he opens the way for his successors. If I have left something unsaid, they will say it."

"Painting, like any art, comprises a technique, a workmanlike handling of material, but the accuracy of a tone and the felicitous combination of effects depend entirely on the choice made by the artist."

"Pure drawing is an abstraction. Drawing and color are not distinct, everything in nature is colored."

"A thousand painters ought to be killed yearly. Say what you like: I'm every inch a painter."

"A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art."

"A painter is revealing something which no one has ever seen before and translates it into the absolute concepts of painting. That is, into something other than reality."

"A puny body weakens the soul."

"Alas, because I?m no longer innocent. We?re civilized beings. Whether we like it or not, we have the cares and concerns of classical civilization in our bones. I want to express myself clearly when I paint. In people who feign ignorance there is a kind of barbarism even more detestable than the academic kind: it?s no longer possible to be ignorant today. One no longer is. We come into the world armed with facility. Facility is the death of art and we must rid ourselves of it."

"Alas! The memories that are swallowed up in the abyss of the years! I?m all alone now+ I would never be able to escape from the self-seeking of human kind anyway. Now it?s theft, conceit, infatuation, and now it?s rapine or seizure of one?s production. But Nature is very beautiful. They can?t take that away from me."

"All pictures painted inside in the studio will never be as good as the things done outside."

"All tones interpenetrate; all forms revoltingly interlock. This is coherence."

"All my compatriots are asses compared to me."

"An art which isn't based on feeling isn't an art at all... feeling is the principle, the beginning and the end; craft, objective, technique - all these are in the middle."

"An optical impression is produced on our organs of sight which makes us classify as light, half-tone or quartertone, the surfaces represented by color sensations. So that light does not exist for the painter."

"Allow me to repeat what I said when you were here: deal with nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere and the cone, all placed in perspective, so that each side of an object or a plane is directed towards a central point. Lines parallel to the horizon give breadth, a section of nature, or if you prefer, of the spectacle spread before our eyes by the ?Pater Omnipotens Aeterne Deus? Lines perpendicular tot that horizon give depth. But for us men, nature has more depth than surface, hence the need to introduce in our vibrations of light, represented by reds and yellows, enough blue tints to give a feeling of air."

"But what an eye Claude Monet has, the most prodigious eye since painting began! I raise my hat to him. As for Courbet, he already had the image in his eye, ready-made. Monet used to visit him, you know, in his early days? But a touch of green, believe me, is enough to give us a landscape, just as a flesh tone will translate a face for us"

"Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet. That?s why color appears so entirely dramatic, to true painters. Look at Sainte-Victoire there (the hill C‚zanne painted frequently, fh) How it soars, how imperiously it thirsts for the sun!. ..For a long time I was quite unable to paint Sainte-Victoire; I had no idea to go about it because, like others who just look at it, I imagined the shadow to be concave, whereas in fact it?s convex, it disperses outward from the centre. Instead of accumulating, it evaporates, becomes fluid, bluish, participating in the movements of the surrounding air."

"Art has a harmony which parallels that of nature. The people who tell you that the artist is always inferior to nature are idiots! He is parallel to it. Unless, of course, he deliberately intervenes. His whole aim must be silence. He must silence all the voices of prejudice within him, he must forget? And then the entire landscape will engrave itself on the sensitive plate of his being."

"Art must make nature eternal in our imagination."

"Anyone who wants to paint should read Bacon. He defined the artists as homo additus naturae? Bacon had the right idea, but listen Monsieur Vollard, speaking of nature, the English philosopher, didn?t for see our open-air school, nor that other calamity which has followed close upon its heels: open-air indoors"

"But there is better. Simplicity, being direct. Everything else is just a game, just building castles in the sky. Basically I don?t think of anything when I paint. I see colors. I strive with joy to convey them on to my canvas just as I see them. They arrange themselves as they choose, any old way. Sometimes that makes a picture. I?m brainless animal. Very content if I could be just that.."

"Drawing and color are not separate at all; in so far as you paint, you draw. The more the color harmonizes, the more exact the drawing becomes."

"Do not be an art critic, but paint, therein lies salvation."

"Don't be an art critic. Paint. There lies salvation."

"Don?t you think your Corot is a little short on temperament? I?m painting a portrait of Vallabreque; the highlight on the nose is pure vermilion."

"Color, if I may say so, is biological. Color is alive and color alone makes things come alive... Without losing any part of myself, I need to get back to that instinct, so that these colors in the scattered fields signify an idea to me, just as to them they signify a crop. Confronted by a yellow, they spontaneously feel the harvesting activity required of them, just as I, when faced with the same ripening tint."

"Everything in nature is formed upon the sphere, the cone and the cylinder. One must learn to paint these simple figures and then one can do all that he may wish."

"Everything I am telling you about ? the sphere, the cone, cylinder, concave, shadow ? on mornings when I?m tired these notions of mine get me going, they stimulate me, I soon forget them once I start using my eyes."

"Everybody?s going crazy over the Impressionists; what art needs is a Poussin made over according to nature. There you have it in a nutshell."

"Everything we see falls apart, vanishes. Nature is always the same, but nothing in her that appears to us, lasts. Our art must render the thrill of her permanence along with her elements, the appearance of all her changes. It must give us the taste of her eternity."