Erle Loran: Cézanne’s Composition

Erle Loran: Cézanne’s Composition

cenanne's composition

Today I would like to bring to your attention a very good book. I’ve had the book for far too long before I actually picked it up and study thoroughly. I went through it briefly when I got it (which was several years ago) and I set it aside. I remember the book being mentioned and recommended by several artists I admire and with every mention of it I thought I just have to read it. I suspected it was good but didn’t know just how good.

Erle Loran (1905-1999) was an American artist who was fascinated by the work of Cézanne. If you’re interested you can read more about him on the provided link which will redirect you to California Watercolor website. He published this book in 1943. The fact that it’s had several editions and is still available says a lot about the relevance and quality of the information contained within. I don’t know Erle Loran’s work that intimately to talk more about him and his work but what I can say is that I greatly appreciate his effort in providing us with such study.

It is a little bit tricky to talk about this book before you read it and so I will keep this review fairly short. The thing is, it may not be for everyone. Not everyone may be ready for it, not everyone may be interested in it. It may not be what you look for in art whatsoever. Not everyone may like Cézanne’s work, I know I didn’t. But with the help of this book I learned to appreciate it. And I am thrilled by that and very grateful, to the author himself for making his findings available to us through the book and also to those artists who talk about it, keeping it alive and relevant.

As the title itself says, Cézanne is the center figure of the book. It is a study and analysis of compositional principles found in his work. Why is Cézanne’s work so special you might ask? Well, Cézanne’s work is one of great importance in the context of modern art. He came after the impressionists and was concerned more with the plastic means of composition than the perception and depiction of light effects. This is where the compositional ideas later adopted by the likes of Picasso or Braque first emerged, in Cézanne’s work.

In the book analyzed are Cézanne’s selected mature works, which are, with the help of diagrams drawn by the author, compared directly to the real life photographs of the motifs depicted. This direct comparison then demonstrate the approach and thinking behind each work. The content is divided into several chapters, each discussing a particular problem or area of interest. These discussions are very insightful and illuminating. That being said, this is not an instructional book. This is a study and it’s exactly as the subtitle says, an “Analysis of Cézanne’s form with diagrams and photographs of his motifs”. But man, it’s one good analysis.

The best part is that you don’t even have to purchase the book if you can’t for some reason. I found the book on Google Books and shared it directly into this post (should be displayed at the end of the post). Whether the book is for you or not and you decide to purchase it or read it online, the book undoubtedly is an important work and remains a true gem to those with keen interest in improving their art, valuable resource for repeated study and an excellent overview of the working methods of one of the most important figures in art history.

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  1. Russell

    HI Daniel. Oh, this looks all too familiar as it’s what Rex Brandt taught us in class all the time. His class notes were complied into the book, “Seeing With a Painter’s Eye”, as you already know. It’s interesting to note that at the time, when Cezanne started using more “flattened” space (vs. the linear perspective construct), viewers back then had a difficult time understanding the painting. They were so locked into the concept of “deep space” (like so many today along with photo-realism), that some of his early examples of FS were unreadable to them. The California painters picked up on the idea a half century later and really ran with the FS format.
    Thanks for reminding us of a great book, and kudos for posting a copy!

    1. Hi Russell,
      true, but many are confused even today. Not too easy to retrain our minds!

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