Biography and the Erotics of Paint
By (author) Aruna DSouza
Publication date:15 April 2008
Length of book:176 pages
PublisherPenn State University Press
Cézanne’s Bathers: Biography and the Erotics of Paint discusses an epochal shift in the representation of sexuality in modern art with the images of nudes made by Paul Cézanne. Cézanne was the first painter of the twentieth century who, through careful study of avant-garde precedents including Manet and Courbet, would transform the material qualities of his art into an erotics of paint—that is to say, an eroticization of medium, of the liquidity of paint and the resistance of the canvas, of the trembling of the contour, of the oiliness of the pigment, and of countless other painterly effects. By dislocating the erotics of his subject from the bodies he depicted and transposing it onto these formal qualities, Cézanne set the stage for the explorations of a number of later artists, including Henri Matisse, who saw in Cézanne the possibilities of the modern painting of the nude.
Cézanne’s Bathers: Biography and the Erotics of Paint proposes a new way of reading Cézanne’s biography not simply as a form of myth-making but also as a form of art criticism; at the same time, it proposes a reading of Cézanne’s images of bathers that accounts for their strangenesses and for the pleasures they produce. It is a book that is fiercely engaged with arguments about these paintings that have come before, mining the writings of figures such as Meyer Schapiro, Tamar Garb, and T. J. Clark to discover a new way of looking at these strange works.
—Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Harvard University