Study Cézanne for your photography
Study Cèzanne for your photography – Studying great master of photography is probably the best way to develop your photographic eye. But you can learn more if you examine also other arts. For example you can try to study single movie frames and of course paintings. In this article i’ll talk about Cèzanne; analyzing some of his most famous works you can learn more about color and composition in paint but also in photography.
Cèzanne born on 19 Jan 1839 in Aix-en-provence, France. At first he was influenced by impressionism but after he became more famous for his post-impressionist works. He had a bad temper but also good friends as Emile Zola and Camille Pissarro (one of his master). Cèzanne is actually known as the father of modern art. He inspired famous painter as Picasso, Braque and Matisse…
First lesson from Cèzanne: follow your istinct
The most seductive thing about art is the personality of the artist himself. (Paul Cèzanne)
Cèzanne was refused several time by Salon in Paris and his works were harshly attacked by critics. Even impressionists criticized his paintings. In that sense his Artistic life was similar to Van Gogh. Despite everything Cèzanne was strong enough to follow his istinct and he continued to paint his vision of life. This is a great teaching, doing what we like regardless of criticism. I think about photography in these days with instagram and facebook. A lot of similar images in street and landscape photography. Often we do (ok, not me) what other people like to get positive feedbacks, likes, follows… We don’t photograph our vision of life, so we don’t have a personal style and we don’t make art!
Second lesson from Cèzanne: composition and color
I lack the magnificent richness of color that animates nature. (Paul Cèzanne)
Cèzanne used short and quick strokes, painting a light spread throughout the scene in color stains; he was influenced by impressionism. Usually he didn’t use the aerial perspective tecnique. In His 2-dimensional paintings we understand distance and depth thanks to the use of different color layers. Cèzanne knew that hot colors tend to come forward while cold color move away.
I like the way he balanced his paintings using contrast between cold and hot colors and using the different disposition of the elements in the canvas. Look at this version of Card Players we can appreciate diagonals converging in the centre of the scene, the disposition of the elements that balances the composition, and the contrast between hot and cold colors.
Look at hot and cold colors in his still life and landscape:
Cèzanne painted different versions of his Card Players. I like the way diagonals converge in the centre of the scene, helping viewer’s eyes to focus on cards. Thanks to tilted lines and diagonals the scene is more dynamic and “dramatic”.
Looking at one of his masterpiece, The Large Bathers, we can appreciate at first the composition. How many triangles can you count in this painting? Triangles create strong and balanced composition in painting and photography. In this work Cèzanne balanced the scene using triangles and pyramidal compositions. He painted women merged with nature. “Reds” move forward, “blues” are in background; colors dispositon give the sense of perspective. Orange and blue create a good contrast because they are complementary colors.
Cèzanne created compositions also using contrast between horizontal and vertical lines.
In your photograph try to balance the scene using contrast between colors, horizontal and vertical lines and different disposition of the elements in the frame. Try to include also triangles and pyramidal compositions to create stronger compositions.
Third lesson from Cèzanne: tilted lines for more dynamism
Tilted lines and diagonals create more dynamism in a picture. Try it when you make street photography or when you look at frenetic scenes in action movies. This tecnique was invented many years ago in painting. Cézanne used diagonals and tilted lines in his landscapes, portraits and even still lifes.
An example in landscape:
Here is how it looks without tilted lines. The picture is more static and less dramatic.
As I said this technique is used also in cinema, it’s called “dutch angle“. Here is an example from Guy Ritchie‘s movie The Snatch.
What about photography? Daido Moriyama, a famous modern street photographer, usually tilt his camera to obtain more dynamic diagonals.
Fourth lesson from Cèzanne: perseverance
Perseverance is a fundamental quality in life. As other great painters (and photographers) Cèzanne spent a lot of time painting. He worked for hours and hours on his canvas, often destroying everything. Sometimes he painted for days (or months) the same canvas and for years the same subject as Moint Saint-Victoire.
Fifth Lesson from Cèzanne: be innovative, experiment
Paul Cèzanne is the father of us all. (Pablo Picasso)
Practice, experimentation and personal vision are fundamental. In his still lifes he tryed to give more depth representing different parts of the same object from different point of views. This tecnique was resumed and elaborated by Picasso and Braque in cubism. He experimented a lot and became innovative.
With his compositions and colors Cèzanne influenced also another great painter, Henry Matisse.
Differently from impressionists he didn’t try to fix a precise moment of light in his canvas. He wanted represent the essence of nature. Colors reflect each other. Mountains, clouds, trees are part of the same thing: nature.
Stay well, have always light in your life
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