Review: Nina Maria Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, Cézanne and Provence

February 7, 2006
By

jacket imageAruna D’Souza reviewed four new books on Cézanne in the new issue of Bookforum, including Nina Maria Athanassoglou-Kallmyer’s Cézanne and Provence: The Painter in His Culture: "Cézanne and Provence manages definitively to rewrite this canonical artistic biography, in part through Athanassoglou-Kallmyer’s close interrogation of the particular valence of Cézanne’s embrace of a Provençal regionalism in the last decades of his life, and through her examination of his ties to the culture of his birth throughout his career. Athanassoglou-Kallmyer’s thesis is simple and elegant: that Cézanne, far from being disengaged from the world in a hermitlike search for optical truth, was part of a group of intellectuals that included his closest childhood friends (such as, most familiarly, the poet and nationalist Joachim Gasquet) and whose Provençal patriotism was not at all out of step with a general regionalist impulse that took hold outside Paris in the mid-1880s. Thus, this group’s desire to preserve traditional Provençal culture, language, customs, and artifacts—all of which were being threatened by the homogenizing forces of modernization, industrialization, political centralization, and urban mass culture—was not part of a reactionary conservatism, argues Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, but (at least in those early years, before 1900) was perfectly in concert with leftist and progressive political leanings. Far from a shift in political values from those of his youth, Athanassoglou-Kallmyer contends, Cézanne’s embrace of Provence and retreat from the capital were a continuation and logical outcome of those early ideals, which were largely anti-government, anti-institutional, and anti-Parisian.… Athanassoglou-Kallmyer is a diligent and creative researcher.…"

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