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If These Apples Should Fall

Cézanne and the Present

T. J. Clark


A penetrating analysis of the work of one of the most influential painters in the history of modern art by one of the world’s most respected art historians

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For more than a century the art of Paul Cézanne was deemed to hold the key to modernity. His painting was a touchstone for Samuel Beckett as much as Henri Matisse. Rainer Maria Rilke revered him deeply, as did Pablo Picasso. If we lost touch with his sense of life, they thought, we lost an essential element in our self-understanding.

In If These Apples Should Fall, T. J. Clark looks back on Cézanne from a moment – our own – when such judgments may seem to need justifying. What was it, the book asks, that held Cézanne’s viewers spellbound?

At the heart of Cézanne lies a sense of disquiet: a homelessness haunting the vividness, an anxiety underlying the appeal of colour. T. J. Clark addresses this strangeness head-on, and examines the art of Pissarro, Matisse and others in relation to it; above all, he speaks to the uncanniness and beauty of Cézanne’s achievement.

Written in his characteristically engaging style by one of our most significant writers on art, If These Apples Should Fall is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in Cézanne, or indeed the history of modern art.


'An electrifying account of looking intently to fathom Cézanne’s pictures: what makes their beauty still so uncanny, precarious, visionary. Stalking his subject with a hawk’s eye, a philosopher’s mind and an open heart, Clark unfolds both the artist at work and his own evolving responses ... The best book on Cézanne since Meyer Schapiro’s in 1952 … an electrifying companion'
Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times, Books of the Year

'Characteristically brilliant and provocative … fascinating'
Gabriel Josipovici, TLS

'Clark is an astonishingly good judge. He can bend language around an image until the two are only millimetres apart ... there are bold observations on almost every page of this book'
Jackson Arn, Art in America

'Fans of T. J. Clark will be fascinated by this latest stop on his sometimes unexpected intellectual journey'
Tom Stammers, Literary Review

'A book that shows how this great artist is still stretching minds'
Jonathan Jones, Guardian

'Clark writes beautifully … [he] is still the most careful and perceptive of art critics writing today. Even when one diverges from Clark’s conclusions, one never feels in the presence of someone who does not look, think and write without the utmost attention and seriousness'
The Jackdaw

'It is the boldness of the book that is exhilarating, the author taking interpretive gambles … brims with memorable insights and aphorisms'
Literary Review

'One of the most exciting books on art I have read'
Gabriel Josipovici, Times Literary Supplement Books of the Year

'A very generous text. Clark invites us in on his reflexive meditations – a welcome relief from academic arguments that are almost paranoically designed to be bulletproof from first sentence to final footnote'
Hal Foster, London Review of Books

'What drives If These Apples Should Fall is less the task of scholarly exposition than the swelling momentum of interpretation itself... Clark’s observations can be unforgettable... In Clark’s hands, Cézanne’s practice is at once singular and a paradigm for an art history that lets in the world only when it needs to'

'Clark writes in the tradition of Lukács, Adorno and Debord ... His prose is full of leaping, dramatic comparisons, flashes of detournement ... The book flicks between registers, from doubt to certainty, from prose to verse'
Saul Nelson, New Left Review

'A great book ... deeply original ... it will inspire readers to rethink fundamentals ... [a] madly suggestive, wildly adventuresome book '
The British Journal of Aesthetics

'Few scholars have been as consistently innovative or original, or justifiably as influential. And no one writes better'
The British Journal of Aesthetics

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.6 x 18.6 cm

Extent: 240 pp

Publication date: 4 August 2022

ISBN: 9780500025284

Contents List

1. Pissarro and Cézanne
2. Cézanne’s Material
3. Cézanne and the Outside World
4. Peasants
5. Matisse in the Garden

About the Author

T. J. Clark is Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of the seminal The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers (1984) and Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (1999). He writes art criticism regularly for the London Review of Books. He is the author of Heaven on Earth: Painting and the Life to Come (2018), also published by Thames & Hudson.