Sunday, 3 February, 5:00pm – FINAL
Another visually beautiful documentary based on the exhibition of Cézanne portraits currently on view at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Portraits of a Life is particularly good at illustrating the transitional period of the 1870s and 80s, when Cézanne slowly inched his way out of impressionist-style representation to a more revolutionary method of grappling with tones, colours and planes – as well as the materiality of paint – to render his ideas on canvas.
Over his life Cézanne painted almost 1000 paintings, 200 of which were portraits. The exhibition, billed by art critics as ‘once in a lifetime’, brings together – for the first time since Cézanne’s death – fifty of these portraits from private and public collections all around the world. These portraits provide the backbone to the film.
The docu films and focusses on the exhibition of Cézanne’s portraits. A pretty ambitious project considering that Cézanne was not known for his portraits. Since he was an artist who sees the whole of the subject rather than the individual, this is an interesting journey into how those individuals inhabited the space. Also how he indeed straddled two generations of artists and was a complete mix of the 19th and 20th century. I did not realize that his plain work served as an inspiration for other artists and that he was the first to look at space horizontally.
Between views of the painting the film offers the spoken word, narrating the letters and correspondence to fellow artists and his family; as well as the usual expert opinions.
Alas, another destitute artist unrecognized in his time, and struggling to make ends meet. Nice touch with observations from his great-grandson and the exploration of his actual studio. Wow, to have that wall of glass!!
UK 2018, 87 min
Directed by Phil Grabsky
Narrated by Brian Cox