Cézanne and American Modernism
Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) profoundly influenced Cubism and the direction of 20th-Century modern art. However, relatively little comprehensive research has considered the specific impacts of Cézanne on the work of key American artists. This is the first exhibition to examine Cézanne’s influence upon the development of American modernism in this country and abroad. Cézanne and American Modernism includes an intimate display of a dozen key paintings and works on paper by Cézanne. This gallery will recreate, in part, important exhibitions in which his work was introduced to American artists. These exhibitions were at Alfred Stieglitz's renowned gallery 291 in 1910 and 1911, the Armory Show of 1913, the Montross Gallery in 1916, and at museums, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1920, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1921, and the Museum of Modern Art in 1929. Each piece, including works owned by Leo and Gertrude Stein, is selected for its relevance to the American artists whose work was changed by exposure to Cézanne's innovative approach to painting. This presentation also includes copies of related books, portfolios, and exhibition catalogues of this era, materials that were in many cases owned by and certainly influenced American artists.
The core of the exhibition focuses upon 75 paintings, works on paper and photographs by a diverse group of major American Modernists—among them Max Weber, Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth, Morgan Russell, Man Ray and Arshile Gorky—to show how Americans from across the United States, including the SouthWest, responded to Cézanne's themes, process, and style. The primary emphasis is on the work of American artists, selected works by Cézanne are included to illustrate his impact on their work. These comparisons will help to establish stylistic and thematic influences, especially in terms of the subject matter categories of still lifes, landscapes, portraits, and bathers. This exhibition serves to recreate the path of influence that the artists themselves experienced. Cézanne and American Modernism demonstrates resemblances between Cézanne and American artists to convey deeper meanings of their engagement with Cézanne as, in Hartley's words, "the gateway for our modern esthetic development, the prophet of the new time."
Maurice Prendergast's pioneering discovery of Cézanne's work in 1907 at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune exhibition of the artist's watercolors coincided with the experiences of artists Max Weber, Morgan Russell, and others, who saw the French master's work in Paris at the home of Americans Gertrude and Leo Stein. Cézanne, who died in 1906, gradually became better known in New York as well. Cézanne's work sparked an animated critical response, notably from the American painter-critic Walter Pach, who as early as 1908 wrote the first informed appreciation of Cézanne to appear in the United States. Cézanne and American Modernism will conclude with Arshile Gorky's works of the late 1920s, by which time Cézanne had been canonized in the inaugural show of The Museum of Modern Art, Cézanne, Gauguin, Seurat, van Gogh (1929).