Last two weekends spent at home, waiting for the public to come and buy. They came and were polite, even enthusiastic – but there’s not much money about, so I must content myself with compliments and expressions of surprise at how many paintings there are (quantity, not necessarily quality). Not much abstraction aversion this year, though; “Where do you get your ideas?” rather than “What is this supposed to be?” Comment in the visitors book from someone’s child; “These pictures are very nice. I like scribles”.
Have probably said this before, but the single tracking shot that comprises this film, somehow wields enormous emotional clout at the end. The doomed officers and aristos come together slowly, like two sides of a zip, on the staircase and the balconies, as the camera passes between them. The movement and the closeness of the faces, looking quizzical, amused, maybe faintly annoyed as the camera passes, induces a sort of vertigo or unsteadiness in the viewer (me anyway). Its echoed by one of the characters, when she says, “I feel as if I’m floating..”; and so on, down the staircase, to where the open doors look out onto a frozen sea, smoking with cold, and awaiting the soon- to- be- swallowed-up gentry – although Sokurov pictures them sailing its waters for ever.
I was surprised to read in the Taschen by Ulrike Becks-Malorney that Cezanne spent months, even years, on his paintings. They don’t look as if they took months to do, in the sense that time is not represented by wealth of detail – I’m thinking of Ingres, for example. It may be interesting to find out and compare the average time spent on a painting by various artists, so I think I’ll make a little occasional project of this, until I get bored.
Offhand, I can think of a couple of slowhands; Ingres I’ve mentioned, Auerbach of course – but not sure about him; does it count as slow if you do someone for a year and scrape it off every night, then knock out the actual picture in a few hours? As for speedies, there’s Vincent of course, with virtually a painting a day in the month leading up to his suicide and Michelangelo, who knocked out the Sistine ceiling in three, or was it four years. Staggering, but then he had to get it done before the plaster dried…
Just for argument’s sake, these are my favourite Cezannes:
1. Madame Cezanne in the Red Armchair (Striped Skirt) 1877 – the marbling effect of the blue and red on her face and hands, the almost vertical striping on the skirt, like a picket fence.
2. The Blue Vase, 1855 – 7 (!)
3. Vessels, basket, fruit (the Kitchen Table) 1888-90 – the one with the most pronounced disparities of angle and size, to demonstrate a heightened “reality”; to show you the inside of the vessel as well as the outside.
4. The Lac d’Annecy, in the Courtauld.
5, Mountain in Provence, 1886 – how solid!
6. Mont Saint-Victoire, 1904 – 1906. Shimmering, or rather bristling in the heat, an effect achieved by little vertical brushstrokes, like VG, with the light blue iceberg of the mountain against the scooped-out, echoing blue of the sky.