Monday, November 10, 2014

Variations on Cezanne's Still Life with a Plaster Cast
30 x 24   Oil on Linen

The idea of variations on a theme has always fascinated me. In music there are variations on an original theme like Bach's Goldberg Variations. There are also variations on a theme by another composer like Rachmaninoff's variation on a theme by Paganinni or Beethoven's variations on Mozart's duet from Don Giovanni "là ci darem la mano." These variations generally begin with simple changes in key or tempo and then go off into marvelous and ingeniously complex manipulations of the original theme. In painting there is a tradition of one artist copying another's work like Rubens' copies of works by Titian or Picasso's interpretations of paintings by Velazquez. But these are wholesale reinventions not variations. So I assigned myself the task of doing multiple variations within a single work by another artist. A theme by Cezanne seemed like a good choice, I chose his Still Life with a Plaster Cast (now in the Courtauld Institute of Art, London). I could have approached the problem by playing with technical elements such as color and composition but instead decided that my variations would be stylistic. The plaster cast, for example, is a more classical rendering than Cezanne's version. The blue draped chair on the left (part of a painting in Cezanne's version but a real object in mine) is painted the way Matisse might have handled it and the floor is reminiscent of Van Gogh's approach. The deep shadows in the upper left hand corner are rendered with multiple glazes à la Titian. The apples on the table represent various artistic styles while the onions return to the way Cezanne himself rendered them. For the paintings stacked on the floor I've introduced cubist, abstract expressionist and religious themes. All of these variations are held together by my own artistic hand and philosophy. I've never seen a painting approached this way before, perhaps I've invented a whole new genre of painting.....