Shades of Orange with Many Greens

Visions of Paul Cézanne
By Walter E. Thompson
10 Digit ISBN:
13 Digit ISBN: 978-1-936782-80-2
LCCN: 2012932035
Price: $15.95
Trim: 5.5 x 8.5
Format (pb/hc): Paperback
Pages: 240
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The artist in his studio working on a still life.  Deep description of the process, including special matters relating to the way he sees and studies the objects he is painting.

A group of young [fictional] supporters discuss Cézanne’s current situation in the Parisian art world of the 1890s.  Some of the artist’s antagonists and their views are cited as well as some of his colleagues.  News arrives that Cézanne will have his first solo show in Paris.  This event will form a sort of climax for the book.  Episodes in other chapters will build excitement toward this event.

Cézanne is painting alone at a site on the edge of Aix, the artist’s hometown.  He is accosted by a stranger who comes upon him suddenly and manages to engage and enrage the artist with questions and comments that drive the painter nearly to distraction.  Clearly this person knows a great deal about the artist, although Cézanne has apparently never seen him before.  After considerable arguing and haranguing, the conversation ends with the artist exhausted.  The stranger finally ends the meeting but promises to come again to continue the discussions, much to Cézanne’s disgust and anger.

Cézanne goes alone again into the woods to paint.  This time he remains alone and the chapter explores his approach to landscape painting, especially the manner in which the scene before him is subject to reevaluation and rethinking that cause radical changes in his approach.  The exchange between the thoughts in his mind and the scene as observed become the antagonists.

Three of his colleagues [Monet, Renoir and Pissarro] meet at Monet’s home in Giverny.  Their discussion and concern centers around their difficult and complicated friend, Paul Cézanne.  Various anecdotes are exchanged about him.  They worry about his forthcoming exhibition in Paris.  They have grave concerns that he will not be able to stand the criticism and rejection that is likely.

The entire chapter is a dream… two dreams actually.  The second one turns into a nightmare in which the Cézanne overhears people making fun of and criticizing his painting.  In the earlier dream there is a reprise, cast in surreal terms, of issues he faced in an earlier chapter when he was painting a still life.

The stranger who visited Cézanne earlier returns, this time to the artist’s studio.  The painter is distraught at having to deal with him again.  He tries to turn him out but the stranger tricks him and they go on to have more very emotional discussions and arguments.  This time Cézanne gets the upper hand as the talk settles more and more on aesthetic matters.  The stranger abruptly leaves when Cezanne’s gardener unexpectedly arrives.

One of the artist’s young supporters [fictional] decides to go to Aix to meet the artist for the first time.  André goes through a a number of misadventures in Aix that blend into the story and finally, only after a most complicated series of events, does he accost the artist in a rock quarry where the latter is painting.  He comes upon Cézanne so suddenly and without warning that the artist is completely flummoxed.  He will not speak to André and makes him go away without the least satisfaction.  The meeting is a disaster.  André writes the details of the day in a long letter to Maurice, one of his friends.

The group of young supporters have a picnic outside of Paris a day or two before the famous exhibition is to open.  They are excited, of course, and the artist again is the subject of conjecture and concern.  Influences on Cézanne are discussed, especially Manet.  It is revealed that one of the young people will be unable to attend the opening of the hugely anticipated Cézanne show.  An emergency at his home in the south of France means he must go there immediately.  One of the others, André, promises to write to Maurice all about the show.

In four excerpts from letters written to Maurice by André, the details of the show are described.  Theories about the meaning and the style of the painting are put forth.  Special qualities about the color, the light and the space in the paintings are highlighted.  Anecdotes related to people coming and going to the show are recounted.

The stranger appears to the artist for the third and final time.  He brings news from Paris to Cézanne about his show which the painter has not attended.  In a great summing up, the stranger makes peace with the artist and reveals something about his own fascination with the painter and his art.  Cézanne makes a declaration about his aims as a painter and then retreats into silence and the study of his painting while the stranger marvels at his focus and dedication. Finally the stranger bids the artist adieu.

In an Afterword, a contemporary of the artist, long since deceased, comes forward to speak to the reader about the book just read and about his relationship with the hero of the story.  Solari knew Cézanne most of his life and was an intimate part of the close circle of the painter’s friends.  He has come forward here to clarify a few points the author has made and to assure the reader that the qualities attributed to Cézanne are more or less accurate.  He  bears witness and authenticates the general story as told.



Walter E. Thompson was born in San Francisco, California. He graduated from San Francisco State College with a B.A., and later from the University of Michigan with a Ph.D. in art history. He taught art and art history in several liberal arts institutions in Illinois and South Carolina. He has been a practicing painter throughout his adult life. Since 1983 he has lived in New York. Most recently he and his wife reside in a small, rural community in Columbia County, north of New York City