The EY Exhibition: Cezanne at Tate Modern, London, is practically a flawless presentation of the artist’s best landscapes, nudes, portraits, and still lifes. It’s impossible to overstate the outstanding quality of work exhibited and the excellent groupings of related pieces.
Impressively, the show manages to highlight the materiality of Cezanne’s oil paintings and watercolours. Due to the serial nature of his repeated depictions of Aix-en-Provence, which form clusters in several rooms, one can easily see the artist’s stylistic development and changing approach to mark-making, from carefully built-up strokes of thick impasto to completely flat canvases applied like thin watercolour and dry patches in his later years. In fact, some of his still life apples have an almost crusty surface texture, with one particular example looking freshly applied!
Speaking of watercolours, fantastic selections throughout highlight Cezanne’s heavenly application of transparent glazes, creating glistening optical effects as if his objects were made of glass. Traces of underdrawing also emerge from the masses of vibrant colours, and eagle-eyed viewers may also spot the occasional pinhole at the corner of some sheets, remnants from being pinned against a wall in the studio.
Practically every wall of every room is a reunion of sorts and it is utterly delightful, demonstrating the artist’s subject/object preferences and experiments with perspective, restrained colour palettes, mark-making, and level of finish. A corridor also showcases his palette and watercolour boxes.
One of two rooms dedicated to nudes also doubles up as an ensemble of works previously owned by artists like Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Jasper Johns. The sole Achilles’ heel here is that an impression of Marcantonio Raimondi’s Judgement of Paris engraving, after Raphael, has seemingly been loaned out of thin air for historical context; Cezanne did make sketches after his prints but none of them feature in the exhibition.
This exhibition is an art historian’s dream and I don’t use that phrase lightly. Supplemented by important private collection loans and wise curatorial decisions, this show effortlessly showcases Cezanne’s view of his environment.
The EY Exhibition: Cezanne runs until 12 March 2023 at Tate Modern, London, https://www.tate.org.uk