Paul Cézanne and the Making of Modern Art History
Hargrove, June E.
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The application of art historical methodologies to the study of Paul Cézanne in the 1930s brought about significant changes in the way the artist's art and biography were understood. Art history was institutionalized as an international academic discipline under the pressure of the ideological struggle that preceded the Second World War. This process promoted the incorporation of modern art as part of the disciplinary field. The use of categories of analysis developed for the examination of historical manifestations helped to assimilate modern art into a narrative that extolled the continuity of the Western tradition. This dissertation examines the writings and careers of art historians who published books on Cézanne in 1936 in Paris: Lionello Venturi, the first catalogue raisonné of the work of the artist, Cézanne, son art, son oeuvre; René Huyghe, a monograph, Cézanne; and John Rewald, Cézanne et Zola, which became the accepted biography of the artist. In addition, Rewald's photographs of the sites Cézanne painted were instrumental in introducing space (as perspective) as a category for the analysis of the artist's landscapes, thus helping to establish its link to the Western tradition. The site photographs epitomize the new approach to documentation and the changes in museography that accompanied the transformation of art history. The arrival of émigré art historians to the United States favored the identification of the hegemonic art historical discourse with an anti-totalitarian ideology. Alfred H. Barr Jr., the director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, organized in 1936 Cubism and Abstract Art. The exhibition, which established Cézanne as a key figure in the development of modern art, associated modern art with the fight against Fascism. This dissertation studies a previously ignored period of the history of the institutionalization of art history and provides arguments for the debate on the epistemological foundations of the discipline and its relationship with museography and art criticism. By questioning these foundations, the dissertation disentangles Cézanne's work from the ideological constructs that were affixed to his art by the interpretations proposed in the 1930s and suggests new avenues for understanding it.