Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cezanne: The Pseudoscopic Content


Journal Éveillé is an Informal Exploration of the Natural Mind in Literature and Painting

Index of Painting & Art Notes


A pseudoscope is a binocular optical instrument that reverses depth perception. It is used to study human stereoscopic perception. Objects viewed through it appear inside out, for example: a box on a floor would appear as a box shaped hole in the floor…….It typically uses sets of optical prisms, or periscopically arranged mirrors to swap the view of the left eye with that of the right eye……..In the 1800s Charles Wheatstone coined the name from the Greek ψευδίς σκοπειν -- "false view". The device was used to explore his theory of stereo vision.


It is the work of the 19th century painter Cezanne, where pseudoscopic qualities literally come to the fore. His watercolours during the years 1885-1900 not only give background parity with foreground, but by his choice of the medium of watercolour, creates a remarkable overall pseudoscopic transparency, and in many instances an unmistakable X-Ray effect. The pseudoscopic content in his painting is however much more extensive and widespread than this, and may have escaped scholarly attention because of a general unfamiliarity with the properties of pseudoscopic vision. One distinguished essayist noticed these conflicts, but referred to them as 'binocular ambiguities'. The Cubists' indebtedness to Cezanne is obvious enough and well- documented. What is not obvious, is that the distinctly pseudoscopic handling of space in his paintings, destroyed and revised the classical role of virtual space within the picture plane'. This revision was one of the important pictorial innovations that helped to make Cubism possible, and paved the way for Modernism.

Art and Phenomenology……..edited by Joseph D. Parry…Routledge (2011)

“Art and Phenomenology is one of the first books to explore visual art as a mode of experiencing the world itself, showing how in the words of Merleau-Ponty ‘Painting does not imitate the world, but is a world of its own’. An outstanding series of chapters by an international group of contributors examine the following questions: Paul Klee and the body in art colour and background in Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of art self-consciousness and seventeenth-century painting Vermeer and Heidegger philosophy and the painting of Rothko embodiment in Renaissance art sculpture, dance and phenomenology. Art and Phenomenology is essential reading for anyone interested in phenomenology, aesthetics, and visual culture.”


Paul Cézanne (1839–1906)
Nature morte au crâne
Date 1895-1900
Dimensions: 54,3 x 65 cm


Paul Cézanne, The Basket of Apples, c. 1893, oil on canvas, 65 x 80 cm (Art Institute of Chicago)

“…The image looks simple enough, a wine bottle, a basket tipped up to expose a bounty of fruit inside, a plate of what are perhaps stacked cookies or small rolls, and a tablecloth both gathered and draped. Nothing remarkable, at least not until one begins to notice the odd errors in drawing. Look, for instance, at the lines that represent the close and far edge of the table. I remember an old student of mine remarking to the class, "I would never hire him as a carpenter!" …..But that is not all that is wrong. The table seems to be too steeply tipped at the left, so much so that the fruit is in danger of rolling off it. The bottle looks tipsy and the cookies are very odd indeed. The cookies stacked below the top layer seem as if they are viewed from the side, but at the same moment, the two on top seem to pop upward as if we were looking down at them. This is an important key to understanding the questions that we've raised about Cézanne's pictures so far…..Like Edouard Manet, from whom he borrowed so much, Cézanne was prompted to rethink the value of the various illusionistic techniques that he had inherited from the masters of the Renaissance and Baroque eras. This was due in part to the growing impact of photography and its transformation of modern representation. While Degas and Monet borrowed from the camera the fragmenting of time, Cézanne saw this mechanized segmentation of time as artificial and at odds with the perception of the human eye….Cézanne pushed this distinction between the vision of the camera and of human vision. He reasoned that the same issues applied to the illusionism of the old masters, of Raphael, Leonardo, Caravaggio, etc…..

If a Renaissance painter set out to render Cézanne's still life objects (not that they would, mind you), that artist would have placed himself in a specific point before the table and taken great pains to render the collection of tabletop objects only from that original perspective. Every orthogonal line would remain consistent (and straight). But this is clearly not what Cézanne had in mind. His perspective seems jumbled. When we first look carefully, it may appear as if he was simply unable to draw, but if you spend more time, it may occur to you that Cézanne is, in fact, drawing carefully, although according to a new set of rules…..Seemingly simple, Cézanne's concern with representing the true experience of sight had enormous implications for 20th century visual culture. Cézanne realized that unlike the fairly simple and static Renaissance vision of space, people actually see in a fashion that is more complex, we see through both time and space. In other words, we move as we see…..So very tentatively, Cézanne began the purposeful destruction of the unified image….. these breaks that allow for more than a single perspective. Look, for instance, at the points where the table must break to express these multiple perspectives and you will notice that they are each hidden from view. Nevertheless, in doing this, Cézanne changed the direction of painting.”……Essay by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker…..https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/becoming-modern/avant-garde-france/post-impressionism/a/czanne-the-basket-of-apples


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Okar Research.....August 2015 - May 2016



John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico

January 2017


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