Edited and translated by Alex Danchev
Revered and misunderstood by his peers and lauded by later generations as the father of modern art, Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) has long been a subject of fascination for artists and art lovers, writers, poets, and philosophers. His life was a ceaseless artistic quest, and he channeled much of his wide-ranging intellect and ferocious wit into his letters. Punctuated by exasperated theorizing and philosophical reflection, outbursts of creative ecstasy and melancholic confession, the artist’s correspondence reveals both the heroic and all-toohuman qualities of a man who is indisputably among the pantheon of all-time greats.
This new translation of Cézanne’s letters includes more than twenty that were previously unpublished and reproduces the sketches and caricatures with which Cézanne occasionally illustrated his words. The letters shed light on some of the key artistic relationships of the modern period—about one third of Cézanne’s more than 250 letters are to his boyhood companion Émile Zola, and he communicated extensively with Camille Pissarro and the dealer Ambroise Vollard. The translation is richly annotated with explanatory notes, and, for the first time, the letters are cross-referenced to the current catalogue raisonné. Numerous inaccuracies and archaisms in the previous English edition of the letters are corrected, and many intriguing passages that were unaccountably omitted have been restored. The result is a publishing landmark that ably conveys Cézanne’s intricacy of expression.
Alex Danchev is professor of International Relations at the University of Nottingham and the author of a number of acclaimed biographies, including Cézanne: A Life (Pantheon, 2012) and Georges Braque: A Life (Arcade, 2012).