Cézanne, red roofs on the blue sea
by Marie-Hélène Lafon
Flammarion, 176 p., 21 €
For this portrait of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), the novelist Marie-Hélène Lafon slipped into the thoughts of the painter’s loved ones. They follow one another in brief chapters: his mother, his father, his wife, his gardener and, at the beginning of the book, Doctor Gachet, famous for having willingly welcomed painters to his resort in Auvers-sur-Oise, Camille Pissarro, Vincent Van Gogh or Cézanne.
Their reflections, their feelings shed light on this man who was little understood during his lifetime and who did not make much effort to be so. This is undoubtedly partly due to the financial well-being of his family which freed him from making compromises or submitting to worldly affairs. Marie-Hélène Lafon, however, shows the complexity of the painter’s relationship with his father. An artisan hatter who became a successful banker, he would have liked his son to succeed him and cannot even console himself by telling himself that he is successful.
Those close to him do not understand what Cézanne is looking for in his painting which always seems unfinished. Doctor Gachet does not ask himself these questions. He would love to have the same talent. “He, Gachet, could plant himself in the same place and stay there for a thousand years and he would not capture on his canvas an ounce of what vibrates in Cézanne’s naked and quivering painting. » The expressions used by Marie-Hélène Lafon may lack simplicity. But it makes us clearly understand how this stubborn man opened new paths, to the point of being considered a father of 20th century art. He knew what he was looking for. He said it one day in incredible words: “Water changed into wine, the world changed into paint.” »