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The Letters of Paul Cézanne

Alex Danchev


'Vivid, engrossing … the most moving correspondence by an artist that I have ever read' Financial Times (Book of the Year)

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Cézanne is the exemplary artist-creator of the modern age. Revered and misunderstood by his peers, lauded by later generations as the ‘father of modern art’, he has long been a subject of fascination for artists and art lovers, writers, poets and philosophers.

A singular thinker and an uncompromising seeker after artistic truth, Cézanne channelled a large part of his wide-ranging intellect and ferocious wit into his letters. Over 250 examples survive, to family, friends and major figures from the literary and art worlds. Punctuated by exasperated theorizing and philosophical reflection, outbursts of creative ecstasy and melancholic confession, the letters reveal both the heroic and the all-too-human qualities of the greatest artist of modern times.

This new translation, by the acclaimed biographer Alex Danchev, is based on a thorough re-examination of the original manuscripts. It clears up decades of questionable scholarship and includes over twenty previously unpublished letters. The correspondence is richly annotated and cross-referenced to the current catalogue raisonné and other monuments of recent scholarship. More than seventy illustrations - sketches, autograph letters and key works discussed by Cézanne - add to the vivid presence of the artist on every page.

Danchev's great achievement is to allow readers in English to hear Cézanne's voice for the first time in his own idiomatic, idiosyncratic style. And he sounds rather different from the Cézanne we thought we knew - richer, wittier, wiser, more philosophical, more irascible, above all more fully human. The letters offer fresh perspectives on his artistic vision, politics, friendships, psychology, philosophy, literary tastes and classical frame of reference. They provide an intimate insight into the preoccupations and personality of a legend.

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'Poignant and powerful … for all his travails, Cézanne could use words with the same powerful effect with which he laid on patches of colour'
Sunday Times

'Danchev’s new translation and edition of Cézanne’s letters offers the most riveting portrait of the artist yet'

'An outstanding – and gloriously readable – feat of scholarship'

'Cézanne’s letters are as essential to understanding the painting of the past century as were Van Gogh’s and Pissarro’s'
RA Magazine

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Further Details


Format: Hardback

Size: 24.0 x 16.5 cm

Extent: 392 pp

Illustrations: 75

Publication date: 30 September 2013

ISBN: 9780500239087

About the Author

Alex Danchev (1955-2016) was Professor of International Relations at the University of St Andrews, and the recipient of a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship for 2014-17. He made his name as a military historian with acclaimed biographies of Oliver Franks and Basil Liddell Hart as well as essays on contemporary politics, notably Anglo-American relations and the so-called war on terror. Danchev was also an art historian and authored highly acclaimed biographies of Georges Braque and Paul Cézanne.

List of Contributors

Alex Danchev